By 1989, traditional stalk ’n’ slash films were definitely well past their prime. However, despite it then very much being the genre’s ‘petering-out’ period, an intrepid group of Oklahoma filmmakers opted to not only have another stab (pun intended!) at this once-thriving genre, but at the same time blatantly emulate John Carpenter’s prototypical trailblazer HALLOWEEN(1978), albeit with a decidedly different kind of twist. In spite of its exceedingly derivative nature, Christopher Reynolds’ OFFERINGS(1989) remained a bit of a fan favourite during the VHS era and, thanks to Dark Force Entertainment, it’s now available on Blu-ray (!) to stupefy an entirely new generation of slasher film freaks.
The story, such that it is, is simplistic to the point of pure plagiarism: A young boy named John (Josh Coffman), is continually harassed by the other kids for his strange behaviour, and no one but his only true friend Gretchen (Kerri Bechthold) stands up for him; not even his craggy old mother, who, at one point, even contemptuously flicks cigarette ash onto his scrambled eggs! Following a threatening bit of peer pressure from the neighbourhood kids, John falls down a well, and winds up being left in a coma due to it. Ten years later, the now-adult John (Richard A. Buswell) escapes from the nearby asylum to seek revenge on those who had bullied him so mercilessly, in the process also attempting to win back the affections of Gretchen (now played as a young adult by Leigh Bowman) by imparting some truly unique ‘offerings’ upon her.
Like many of these low-end slasher films (of which, of course, there are plenty), OFFERINGS possesses a similarly imitative style, and while dramatically sluggish and lacking even a hint of anything resembling suspense, it does offer plenty of (un)intentional laughs and a few unique surprises. The rudimentary framework gathers together the requisite group of teenagers (well, um, twentysomethings) for a sleepover at Gretchen’s house, where, much to their understandable surprise, they discover a severed human earon her front doorstep: this being one of John’s first ‘offerings’. Sheriff Chism (G. Michael Smith) is introduced soon after, uttering one of the film’s more cringe-inducing – if priceless – lines of dialogue, “What’s all this I hear about an ear?” Then, in yet another of the film’s wackier developments, a mysteriously-delivered and suspiciously-topped pizza from earlier in the night is also taken in as evidence by the worrisome Sheriff (“That don’t look like sausageto me!”), who knows all-too-well about John’s predilection for cannibalism (!). Amongst other things, OFFERINGSalso includes a doom ’n’ gloom psychiatrist (Jerry Brewer) who follows John back to town in the hopes of stopping him; unlike Donald Pleasence’s Sam Loomis character from HALLOWEEN, however, he’s given virtually nothingto do in a role which is woefully underwritten, but in keeping with some of the film’s other ‘surprises’, he confronts John in a most unusual way. As expected, the film goes on to replicate HALLOWEEN’s third-act stalking sequence (replete with an almost identical piano-driven synth score to boot) without generating any of that other film’s flair or excitement whatsoever and ending with an endlessly drawn-out – and needlessly silly – slow-motion sequence. Regardless of its completely unoriginal structure, OFFERINGSstill possesses enough quirky touches scattered here and there throughout its derivative narrative to make it worthwhile; touches which, for the benefit of those who haven’t seen it, shan’t be revealed here.
First released in 1989 on VHS videocassette in the U.S. via Southgate Entertainment, OFFERINGS eventually made it onto DVD in 2003 through Madacy Entertainment (one of the better cheapo domestic labels from the early 2000s) in a full-screen transfer which, much like the VHS, stayed a little too much on the dark side. Released in association with Kino Lorber, Dark Force Entertainment has decided to revisit this regionally-shot, late-entry slasher on Blu-ray in what is by far and away its finest-looking presentation. A nicely-detailed picture and strong colours (unlike in previous releases, the blue gel lighting finally looks far more accurate and nowhere near as smeary as before) highlight most of this disc, although a few scenes do feature some brief speckling, which may very well be inherent in the film’s original materials themselves, but it’s nothing to get too overly concerned about. The DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio also sounds clear and free of any distortion whatsoever, which is especially nice for such an economically-produced film whose technical aspects were far from state-of-the-art then, and are even less-so now. Unfortunately, other than the film’s original trailer and a handful of trailers for some of Dark Force’s upcoming horror releases, no extras are included, but this still remains a solid-enough release for anyone wishing to see – or own– every ’80s slasher film ever made, while most casual viewers should still be suitably entertained by its audacious copycat nature and oddball surprises. Order it from DiabolikDVD, or, for you Canadian readers, Suspect Video.