Who can protect us from evil?
Almost no one can, at least according to The Devil?s Offering directed by Oliver Park. The film begins on a very disturbing note when we witness the release of a demon that we’re told is ‘the taker of children’. With that haunting notion looming over the film, we follow Art (Nick Blood) and his British wife Claire (Emily Wiseman) as they return to New York?s Borough Park in Brooklyn to visit Art?s father, Saul (Allan Corduner) who, like his many of his neighbours, is an Orthodox Jew. Saul runs a funeral home and is in the middle of leading a service when Art and Claire stumble in. Claire?s lack of Jewish faith has been a tart subject between Art and Saul so both are nervous returning to his very traditional Jewish world. ?However, with Claire pregnant, Saul welcomes his new family. Still, something is lurking beneath the surface of this reconciling reunion and soon hell is unleashed, both in these characters’ relationships and by the dark spiritual forces looming over the funeral home itself.
Written by Hank Hoffman, the screenplay was developed from a story that he did with Johnathan Yunger who has produced films like Hitman?s Wife?s Bodyguard and Rambo First Blood. The script leans heavily on the pulp elements of the horror genre, relying on moments of intense sound and sight to secure the film’s haunting tone. Luckily, those scares are in capable hands as director Park and his crew make the most of the film’s fantastical plot to create an eerie atmosphere. Through the use of strong, orange lighting, Park makes the placid funeral home feel wrought with a grime and grimness that comes to fruition throughout the course of the film. Furthermore, he channels the spirit of Sam Raimi?s classics like The Evil Dead films and Drag Me to Hell through his creative use of dutch angles to lure the audience into the sinister situation the characters face. Park even hired composer Christopher Young (who worked on Raimi?s later 2000s work, including Drag Me to Hell) to create a menacing and haunting score that rivets the audience without using cheap string stabs to get a jolt out of them.
The film is not free of a lot of horror tropes as it does use its sound design in a mostly overwhelming manner to disturb the audience, along with its typical jump scare moments. They are mostly kept to the build up of the film and not used in some of the more climatic or horrific moments but still are tiresome for me when watching horror movies. (Personally, I enjoy them more in comedies, if I?m being honest.) There are clear interesting camera movement choices as Park utilizes a droning camera to create a POV for the devil that is roaming around the home. It uses its indie budget very well in its visual effects and lighting choices by uses limited prosthetics and set design by hiding its creepy set pieces in the dark and only showing them for a few frames at a time. The manifestation of the Devil with his creepy goat face design is also kept effectively haunting by using flashing lights to keep the creature in the shadows while, at the same time, becoming an even more prominent threat.
The film thrives as a scarefest that gives the characters enough characterization for them to be terrorized. And this Offering uses the most of its setting by trapping and continuing to add more disturbing elements to the home and the entire film.
The Devil?s Offering is available on VOD on January 17th, 2023.