Studio: Entertainment One
Director: Kelvin Tong
Writer: Kelvin Tong
Producer: Leon Tong, Kat Goh, Peter E. Poon
Stars: Elizabeth Rice, Matthew Settle, Adina Herz, Adrian Pang, Colin Borgonon, Jaymee Ong, Ravi Chandran, Sharon Frese, Rayann Condy, Pamelyn Chee
A journalist investigating her sister’s suicide uncovers a conspiracy of demonic possession linked to Biblical legend.
Journalist Jamie Waters is on the first flight to Singapore after hearing the sad news of her sister Anna’s tragic suicide. Jamie can’t believe Anna would intentionally asphyxiate herself with a plastic bag, even if she did suffer from an incurable illness, yet video evidence proves Anna did exactly that.
Anna isn’t the only person to die by her own hand, either. All over the area, people with critical medical conditions are willingly taking their lives and the top clue is a strange symbol linking everyone to an ancient demon.
A pair of priests may have connected a series of cyber-attacks on church websites to the deaths, as well as to the Biblical tale of the Tower of Babel. Meanwhile, Jamie and Anna’s ex-husband Sam have an investigation of their own to conduct. Because Anna’s young daughter Katie claims Anna is going to be reborn in seven days, and no one knows for certain what the dead woman might bring back with her.
The majority of these mysteries are lined up like a leisurely falling stripe of exposition dominoes. Unfortunately, writer/director Kelvin Tong knows no way to make that overload of exposition exciting. This means “The Offering” often becomes a slow slog of watching people pensively poring over books, staring at computer screens, or taking a trip to the local library for a montage of newspaper clipping headlines.
Consider this sampling of several first act events:
· Jamie reads an email from her brother-in-law Sam about her sister Anna’s passing.
· Jamie types an email to Anna’s contact list soliciting information.
· Sam finds and flips through a small stack of vintage photos looking for a clue.
· Katie finds a book on Morse code that helps her decipher cryptic messages from a ghost.
· Jamie performs a Google search on the King Diamond symbol.
· After Jamie posts in an online forum, someone with knowledge of the symbol contacts Jamie through email.
· One priest teaches another about ASCII text and binary code using an iPad.
· Jamie looks for clues to another woman’s death by paging through accountant files.
· Sam does the same by looking through tax invoices and medical records.
· Jamie’s journalist associate researches Sam’s background on the internet.
That only covers the first 35 minutes of the movie. Add more bullet points from the next 50 and the list would be just as dull to read as the scenes become to watch. “The Offering” is a true test of one’s limit for sitting through insert shots of photographs, files, webpages, and various other static depictions of images and text included to convey story in a format that should be dynamic and active.
When the pace punctuates itself with atmosphere, it can’t come up with a scare that isn’t accompanied by raised volume. “The Offering” wears its supernatural horror influences on its sleeve. The positive part of that is the movie apes time-tested techniques from some of the genre’s best, with “The Exorcist” being but one example. The negative part is that the lifts are so blatant, e.g. a basement exorcism practically borrowed shot for shot from “The Conjuring” (review here), that “The Offering” has no room remaining on its recycled template of tame terror to include an original stamp of its own.
Putting more cement in the shoes are several inclusions serving no stylistic or practical use. Date stamps exist on the first three scenes, yet only those three scenes. An opening flashback to a decade-old exorcism provides some pre-credits pop, though with barely any bearing on anything transpiring down the line. One of the unnecessary characters has no real role other than momentary babysitter and ride from the airport in her easily excisable moments.
“The Offering” means well. Photography is crisp. Thought-provoking themes regarding classic conundrums like why God allows disease add depth to the devilry. Interesting ideas such as a demon attacking through a computer virus percolate around the periphery of the script.
The film also has a stubborn style of knowing only one way to do things. And that way is either carbon copied from another thriller, or struck with too timid a hand to leave a mark. Top off the tedium with across the board acting in need of a fire lit underneath, and “The Offering” is a squarely mediocre effort fighting against its fate for a way to stand out in the demonic possession/haunted house crowd.
NOTE: “The Offering” is also known by the title “The Faith of Anna Waters.”
Review Score: 50