‘The Offering’ Review: A Demon in the Family

In this Brooklyn-set horror film, an evil spirit causes torment at a Jewish funeral home.

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By Nicolas Rapold

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A serviceable slab of possession horror, “The Offering” unleashes evil in the hallowed halls of a Hasidic funeral home in Brooklyn. When the funeral director’s son, Art (Nick Blood), visits with his pregnant wife, Claire (Emily Wiseman), they arrive at the same time as the body of a scholar who summoned a demon before dying. Art’s fecklessness and the demon’s restlessness lead to trouble.

Asked to help prepare the scholar for burial, Art promptly makes a hash of things and somehow releases the demon, Abyzou, known as a “taker” of children. Art is less observant than his kindly, widowed father, Saul (Allan Corduner), and has apparently offered the funeral home building as collateral for debts, but his general incompetence makes the story feel less about lost faith than filial failure.

With Abyzou activated, the creepy whispers and ghostly assaults commence (with echoes of “The Vigil”). The director, Oliver Park, dwells on the Old World gloom of the funeral home, shuffling through the deck of a somewhat scattered story by Hank Hoffman (who does have impeccable credentials as a former shomer, or guardian, at a Jewish morgue) and Jonathan Yunger.

The horror is most uncanny and effective when it’s using simple yet evocative effects — like Art’s exiting a room only to reappear in the same room — rather than jump scares. Wiseman, as Claire, has little to do but look bewildered (as the sole gentile in the building) and await the demon’s morbid attention. But the goat-headed Abyzou, unlike many supernatural beings in the genre, provides blunt frights that are appealingly less invested in elaborate stagecraft than in pure devastation.

The Offering
Rated R for violence. Running time: 1 hour 33 minutes. In theaters and available to rent or buy on Apple TV, Google Play and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.

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