Stop me if you’ve heard this one before? An escaped loony returns to his hometown one night harboring a deadly obsession for an innocent young girl while slowly killing her friends off one at a time. The only people in his way are an unassuming sheriff and the psycho’s determined psychologist. The film’s score is composed of repetitive, minimalist synth notes, and the killer who stalks his prey from the shadows is known by the iconic name of…John Radley?! Yeah, Offerings is not Halloween, but it so desperately wants to recapture the magic of John Carpenter’s seminal slasher. It’s unclear just what director Christopher Reynolds (whose only other directorial credit is 91′ thriller Lethal Justice) intention was with this late-cycle regional slasher flick. Was he merely being lazy and trying to ape Halloween, or was his intention a loving homage laced with some knowing parody? Are the humorous moments intentional? We may never know.
Offerings was released in 1989 and quickly faded into obscurity. A truly low budget Oklahoma production with very little in the way of “making of” information or fanfare from those who actually had seen it. This was the type of film that I craved. It’s no mystery that 80s horror is my absolute lifeblood. With my series, “Through the Cracks,” I’m constantly searching for that undiscovered gem worth preaching about. When I stumbled upon Offerings on Prime a year ago, I thought I’d hit paydirt. A slasher flick I’d never even heard of? While I mostly watched the film in slack jawed amazement of just how bad it was, there was never a moment I wasn’t thoroughly entertained. Thanks to the fine fiends at Dark Force Entertainment in partnership with Code Red (who have a number of sicko delights coming down the pipeline), Offerings can now be purchased on blu-ray sporting a spiffy new transfer. It looks amazing, especially in contrast to that horrid VHS rip that was parading itself on Prime. However, is a cheesy Halloween riff that’s been recently dusted off and given a high-def sheen worth purchasing?
The film opens with a poor, put-upon kid getting berated by his white trash mother. He’s apparently killed his pet turtle and tried to hide the evidence at the bottom of the trash. Needless to say, John is…not well. The early moments are probably the most not Halloween of the entire film. Interestingly, the set up bares a few similarities with Rob Zombie’s prequel/remake. Was RZ a fan of Offerings? Thankfully, little John Radley has one good friend he can rely upon. Gretchen is the sweet girl next door, which is obvious because she has blonde hair and pigtails. The duo’s playtime is quickly interrupted by a bunch bullies who challenge John to walk around the perimeter of a crumbling well. It comes as no surprise to say, it doesn’t end well. Ten years later we find a comatose Radley sleeping his days away at the Oakhurst Mental Hospital. When the new night nurse doesn’t get the guy his meds in time, Radley wakes back up with nothing but vengeance on his mind.
The scene in question is notable for actually taking two different murders from Halloween II and combining them into one. We get a closeup of the nurse’s bright white keds flailing about as Radley lifts her up off the ground only to plunge a giant hypodermic needle through her forehead. At least if you’re going to copy Halloween, might as well pick and choose your favorite moments from all the films. As news begins to spread back to Radley’s hometown of his escape, the sheriff enlists the assistance of the psycho’s doctor who seems to have some faith he can get through to Radley. In the meantime, a grown up Gretchen with the most hilarious country fried, valley girl accent imaginable, is gearing up for a weekend with her friends as her parents leave town. Perfect timing mom and dad! As friends slowly begin to disappear and random body parts start showing up on Gretchen’s doorstep, it becomes clear that Radley wants to reconnect with his childhood buddy.
What follows is fairly standard stuff. The kills aren’t very gory, but the filmmakers do get major points for having fun with the setup. The murders are handled in such an over the top manner that they tiptoe into parody. An early victim gets tied down with his head crammed into a vice only to repeatedly wince as Radley’s chosen weapons conk out on him. A chainsaw won’t crank. An electric drill cuts out. It’s decidedly fun stuff, and while none of the other setpieces match the tongue in cheek nature of this kill, they’re each riddled with implausibilities that defy logic and the laws of nature (such as the space beneath a twin bed being home to a brawl between Radley and a six foot jock).
Even more fun is the pizza plot line. Yes, there’s basically an entire plot thread revolving around mystery meat on a delivery pizza. As the teens munch down on it, they continually point out “We didn’t order sausage!” and “It doesn’t taste like sausage,” only for the pie to later become integral in the sheriff realizing just what the hell is going on under his watch. The point is, there is a lot of fun to be had with Offerings if you come to it with the right mindset. Yes, it operates on a “so-bad-it’s-good” level, and that’s simply not for everybody. But, if you and your friends have a bad movie night, this should be high up on your must watch list.
Unfortunately, when it comes to special features, all we get is a trailer reel of upcoming Dark Force releases. One in particular, The Backlot Murders certainly caught my eye as something I’m certain I caught on VHS in the early aughts, after Scream had ignited the self aware slasher craze. It’s a shame that’s all we get in terms of bonus material as it would’ve been amazing to see an interview with the director explaining his motive behind this copycat production.
On a technical level, the transfer is pretty outstanding considering what material they were likely working with. This was no Hollywood production, and while generally the image is fairly soft, there are some moments where the colors and shadows really pop. Film grain feels natural and isn’t too distracting until the later scenes taking place exclusively at night. The below image is a good indicator at how grainy it gets, but in my opinion it only adds to the grindhouse feel of the whole enterprise. Audio is listed as mono on the back of the box, but played out as a 2.0 DTS HD master which was extremely clean and well balanced. With a lot of older cheap-o flicks I find myself riding the volume on my remote to make out muffled dialogue scenes only to panic as loud action threatens to blow my speakers out. Not the case here. It sounded great.
I know I’ve said it already, but it really bares repeating. While almost any slasher released in the early 80s was instantly deemed a Halloween ripoff, Offerings truly takes the cake. From the characters, the plagiarized score, and the plot – this film is an odd blip in the slasher canon that’s truly worth discovering for the sheer chutzpah director Reynolds had to think he could ever get away with it…which, I guess he actually did.