Offering, The (2016)
Directed by Kelvin Tong
Appearing on its surface to just be a lesser version of other religious horror films that have come before, at first glance The Offering doesn’t look like it really has much to offer at all. Director Kelvin Tong is probably best known for 2005’s The Maid from Tartan Extreme – a film that borrows from Ju-On and The Sixth Sense just as this film combines elements of The Forest and The Conjuring, among others, to tell its story. And yes, this kind of unimaginative amalgamation doesn’t do this movie any favors, but surprisingly, compelling connections linking the Old Testament and demon-inspired software development to a series of mysterious suicides ultimately make The Offering a lot more thought-provoking and fun to watch.
Setting up the story, an overworked journalist named Jamie (Rice) receives a shocking email informing her that her sickly sister has done herself in, suffocating herself with a plastic bag. After traveling to Singapore to investigate the death, she reconnects with her brother-in-law (Harris) and her niece (Herz) to try to uncover the true cause of their family tragedy. As they slowly discover, the suicide is one of many that have taken place among the sick or handicapped after coming into contact with a mysterious computer software. Using the universal language of binary code, the technology of today possesses these desperate victims, forcing them to commit the ultimate sin in order to bring about the resurrection of an ancient myth dating back to the days of the Old Testament.
Helping to uncover the mystery further, Jamie’s niece, Katie, uncovers clues in the form of scrambled words given to her by the spirit of a boy warning her of a larger evil at work. These scenes show some of the effective visual effects and camera work at play, moments that might be expected in bigger budgeted fare; but here they surprise and delight, elevating the production value of The Offering to complement a plot that actually has some pretty different ideas plugged into a familiar setup.
Connections to the myth of the Tower of Babel arise, bringing up questions about language, the power of God, and man’s original desire to compete with that power, adding layers of thought to what would otherwise be a pretty open and shut experience. The word “Babel” itself means “Gate of God,” and in this case the internet becomes a new gate where ancient evil forces can travel and communicate through. Although fairly convoluted at times, this central idea and a few well-executed creepy moments make The Offering a cautious recommendation instead of a definite pass.
Using inventive tricks found in Paranormal Activity and The Conjuring showing a ghost’s invisible pull and more graphic moments of self-mutilation via webcam and exorcisms gone wrong, there’s just enough here to keep your eyes and your interest from wandering.
Presented by Momentum Pictures (Ava’s Possessions, Intruders), Kelvin Tong’s The Offering arrives in select U.S. theaters and VOD nationwide this Friday, May 6, 2016.