Offerings (1989)

SEPTEMBER 7, 2017

GENRE: SLASHER
SOURCE: STREAMING (YOUTUBE)

A couple years ago, John Carpenter sued the makers of Lockout for ripping off Escape From New York a bit too much for his liking, and actually won, which set a potentially fascinating precedent for future lawsuits. In fact, JC could easily win again if he ever decided to follow suit against Christopher Reynolds, whose debut (and, penultimate) film Offerings is so much like Halloween it's actually kind of jarring when the film does something different. The music is nearly identical, the plot is more or less the same thing (sans the holiday, but that barely played a part in Carpenter's film anyway), there are a number of key scenes recreated... it even has a classroom scene where fate is discussed! Believe me, I've seen a number of Halloween ripoffs over the years, but I can't recall another that was so committed to stealing so liberally from it. It's almost charming.

I could probably fill up the length of a review with a list of examples (such as when the heroine gets a silent phone call, hangs up, then screams at the next caller only to discover it's her best friend), but that'd get boring quick so I'll do my best to stick to what's actually different. For starters, the movie combines the two most classic slasher movie setups: we have a kid who is clearly already evil (he kills small animals, a move later swiped back in turn by Rob Zombie for his Halloween remake), but he's also the victim of a prank gone wrong, which is usually what you do when you want some semblance of sympathy for the guy when he inevitably returns to take revenge x number of years later (it's ten here, for the record). Since he was already nuts I'm not sure why they bothered with the prank thing, but I guess it's one of the few other things to distinguish it from Halloween, in that he has a reason to go after these people. And yes, in case you're wondering, he begins his revenge plan when he escapes from the institute, in fulfillment of the scriptures.

Another change is actually a spoiler, so skip this paragraph if you want the film's few surprises preserved.

Naturally, there's a Loomis type character, his shrink who now works as a college professor (and whose relation to the killer, John Bradley, isn't made clear until later, so it just seems like the sheriff is keeping some random professor in the loop). He makes a few appearances throughout the film, all of them (wait for it) copied from Halloween - finding a dead animal, seeing a disturbed grave - but with about 20 minutes to go, he finally meets face to face with his former patient. It's a scene kind of like Loomis' interactions with Michael in Halloween 5, actually, but Reynolds couldn't have seen that one yet as this movie was released a few months before H5 was, so he came up with the idea on his own or ripped it off from another movie. Anyway, Bradley kills the guy in this scene, leaving the sheriff to be the one to take him down at the end. Whether it was intentional or not it gives the movie its own form of surprise: by copying Halloween so much, this actually comes off as a twist of sorts, kind of like how Savini's NOTLD remake stuck to the exact same thing for an hour and then turned Barbara into an asskicker just when we were about ready to assume nothing else would be different.

If only they copied the pace! Halloween itself is hardly the fastest paced movie ever made, but it's on Michael Bay overload compared to this one, which commits the cardinal sin of slashers: spending a good chunk of the day introducing everyone, then starting to off them all... and then cutting to the next morning, with another half hour or so to go. Plus the heroine and her bestie are already on edge due to a couple of friends disappearing and also finding human remains on their porch, so watching them fart for another day waiting for nightfall is a hugely crippling flaw, in a movie that few will be fully engaged with by that point anyway. The poor acting, shitty kills (none of them are really on-screen), and dull visuals (the killer has a messed up face, but we barely ever see it, though he has no costume either) will have the audience already wanting it to be over with, so hitting pause when the third act should really be getting going was probably the last straw for anyone who rented it back in the day.

Speaking of which, I'm almost positive I did, because the opening scene felt really familiar and I also remembered seeing a slasher with Halloween ripoff music, but nothing else rang a bell. It's possible I rented it, got bored and/or fell asleep and returned it without finishing (I would have rewound it though, I'm not a monster), or there was somehow another movie that did the same thing, but it's just as likely the movie's blandness didn't manage to stick in my memory. Indeed, just this week I was going through a bunch of boxes from my mom's attic and finding essays and the like that I wrote in college (so, not as long ago as this theoretical VHS rental) and having no recollection of writing them - and that was something I was (somewhat) personally invested in! So it's not too crazy to think I'd forget everything about some shitty slasher movie I saw in 7th grade or whatever.

Anyway, if you'd like to see it for yourself, it's on Youtube. You can buy a bootleg quality DVD from Amazon to make yourself feel better if you want, but they are from companies that specialize in public domain stuff sourced from VHS, so none of that money is going toward Reynolds or anyone else involved with the movie. But sooner or later Arrow or Scream Factory or one of their brethren will rescue this thing from obscurity, and I will pick up the special edition right away. Not to watch the movie again, but to dive into the extras and see what the filmmakers have to say about their "homage" to Carpenter's film (dream supplement: get JC to do a commentary as he watches the film for the first time). At least in movies like Hallowed they're going out of their way to acknowledge Halloween's influence (the title, they drive past the filming locations, etc.) while also coming up with their own story. No such luck here; there's no overt reference to Carpenter's film, and while the killer has a clear motive and even a little gimmick (the title refers to the body parts that he gives as presents to the one girl who was nice to him as a kid), it's basically the same movie, albeit a pretty stiff and forgettable one. Hell, it wouldn't surprise me if I already rewatched it for the regular run of this site and forgot again.

What say you?

P.S. All due respect to Carpenter, Lockout is actually a pretty fun movie. And I bet it's better than the remake that they keep threatening.

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