PLOT: A young woman's investigation into her sister's suicide unearths a mystery involving strange symbols, ancient demons, and binary code.
REVIEW: THE OFFERING stars Elizabeth Rice as Jamie Waters, an award-winning journalist based out of Chicago. When she gets the devastating news that her sister Anna has committed suicide in Singapore, an act recorded by her webcam, Jamie catches the next flight to Malaysia. Not satisfied with the answers authorities have for her, she starts using her professional skills to dig further into this personal mystery.
With the help of her brother-in-law Sam Harris (Matthew Settle), Jamie is able to find out that her sister was just one of several people who have killed themselves in this area recently, each in a way directly related to some kind of medical issue they had. And each of them claimed they would be back from the dead in seven days.
This a claim that Jamie's niece Katie takes very seriously, and the little girl anxiously awaits the return of her mother, even learning Morse Code in an attempt to communicate with her mother's spirit. It was Katie's desire to contact the dead that I found to be the creepiest aspect of this movie, with the performance delivered by young actress Adina Herz, making her screen debut here, being one of its strongest assets. The other actors do fine work in their roles (although Rice doesn't convey much emotional range as Jamie), but Herz is a highlight.
While the Waters/Harris family piece together the puzzle of the suicides and unearth dark secrets involving murders and séances, there's also a subplot going on with two priests who believe that recent cyber attacks have some kind of connection to events in the Old Testament. This story angle is the most unique thing THE OFFERING has going on, and it would have served the film well if writer/director Kelvin Tong had expounded upon it even more rather than just making it a lesser element in a story packed with familiar scenarios.
Tong had some very interesting ideas when putting together THE OFFERING. Ideas involving an ancient demon, binary code, and the Tower of Babel. There are problems with this, however, one being that the film doesn't get across just how dire things would be if the evil forces accomplished their goal. Sure, what it's doing is terrible, but what's the point? It really doesn't matter, because the movie ultimately squanders this aspect completely.
As intriguing as certain aspects are, they're irrelevant in the end because THE OFFERING crumbles in the third act, becoming just another possession movie that lifts things from previous horror movies that involved exorcisms like THE CONJURING and THE EXORCIST. In fact, the lift from THE EXORCIST is so obvious that it's inexcusable. You can't recreate that moment and expect viewers to take you seriously, it's going to take them right out of the moment.
The disappointment of the final moments aside, THE OFFERING is a decently horrific ride for the majority of its running time. You might not care about the characters all that much, you might not understand exactly what's going on, but it's dark and creepy while the characters are going through the supernatural scenarios. It's also worth noting that the quality of the film's visual effects were much higher than expected, and much better than you would usually see from a movie of this type and on this modest budget level.
If you're looking for a new classic or a new favorite, this isn't likely to deliver for you, but if you want to kill 95 minutes with a horror story, you can do much worse.