Occasionally, the conveyor belt of Christian-themed possession/exorcism/haunting movies – you know, the ones where the Ts in the title are represented by crucifixes – pauses and we get a variant from another faith tradition. In many ways, a sub-genre dominated by the Catholic church spins off from the classic Jewish play The Dybbuk (which has been filmed several times) and recently The Golem and The Vigil drew on Jewish lore. As does The Offering, which was filmed as Abyzou – it’s an understandable renaming, though a few other movies have used The Offering (another 2022 The Offering also goes by Monster Portal) and it’s a vague, generic monicker liable to blur in the memory (like The Possessed, a dybbuk movie from 2012 I just had to look up to confirm it was the film I was thinking of). That’s a shame, since The Offering has quite a lot going for it even if it fits into that random curse sub-genre where people suffer because someone tangentally involved with them has done something stupid and now the whole cast have to be tormented for that, ie: the screenwriter has found a bit of mystic lore and decided to let it loose in a family drama.
Art (Nick Blood) is estranged from his Orthodox father Saul (Allan Corduner) because he’s married outside the faith, to Claire (Emily Wiseman), who is pregnant. He turns up at the family funeral home, which Saul runs with a simmeringly resentful not-son Heimish (Paul Kate), ostensibly to reconcile with the prospect of a grandchild to come … but actually because his real estate business has gone South and he needs the old man to put up his home as security for a mortgage. All this tsuris is by the by, but adds to the paranoia. Just arrived in the mortuary is an elderly scholar who has made the elementary mistake of summoning a demon also known as the Child Taker in an attempt to resurrect his dead wife. After the demon has taken a local child as down payment – it’s in his name, so the scholar should have known – an attempt at binding ritual involves a knife with writings on the hilt and a fragile locket with a Hebrew letter in it. Of course, Art – volunteering to help out with the corpse to get in with the family – bungles things with the knife and locket and the demon gets out … setting its sights on the unborn child.
The mechanics of the curse, explained at a rapid pace by a handy cabbalist (Daniel Ben Zenou), are arbitrary … but the point is to put Art in a bad place he can’t easily get out of and director Oliver Park orchestrates a decent amount of nightmarish suspense as the demon of many forms gets inside his head, appearing as a creepy kid (Sofia Weldon) or a toothy CGI goat-thing. It’s well-acted by a predominantly British cast – set in New York, it was shot in Bulgaria – and has a queasy, gloomy, bluish look. Written by Hank Hoffman and Jonathan Yunger.