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Burnt Offerings

Burnt Offerings – 1976
Dan Curtis

Robert Marasco (novel)
William F. Nolan (screenplay)

Karen Black
Oliver Reed
Burgess Meredith

Review by Wayne Malin

This wowed me when I was 14…,

A couple (Oliver Reed and Karen Black), their young son (Lee Montgomery) and aunt (Bette Davis!) become caretakers for this huge Gothic mansion, in the middle of nowhere, for the summer. Everything seems fine at first but then Black becomes obsessed with the house, Reed starts having some truly disturbing nightmares and the feisty old aunt begins to get ill…and the son is terrified.

I saw this at a theatre when I was 14. It was packed with kids my age (the film is PG) and I remember it scaring me. It all led up to a bloody climax which left my audience screaming. Seeing it 30 years later I can’t see why I ever liked this.

The film is too long, VERY slow and the ultimate resolution struck me as pretty stupid. Nothing really happens until the very end. I was basically bored. Also Reed gives out a horrible performance–but Davis hated him and kept telling him off–that could account for it. Davis hated this film. She complained long and loud about the script and would basically tell off the crew and director daily. She only got along with Black and Montgomery.

The film gets a 2 for a few reasons–Davis (despite hating it) is good; Black and Montgomery aren’t bad; the visions Reed has are still pretty scary and the ending really jolts you (don’t see it on commercial TV–it’s edited). Still that doesn’t save it. Bette Davis completists might want to tune in…but that’s it.

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A tour through the great and not so great films of the seventies The seventies saw a huge change in styles and genres from the advent of the slasher horror movies like Halloween and the blockbuster summers films started by Jaws. More...

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