If you’re familiar with bible scripture — and being from the south, where you can find scripture written on everything from vacuum cleaner bags to McDonald’s wrappers, I’ve heard one or two — Genesis, chapter 11 tells the story of the Tower of Babel. At this point in history, all people spoke one language. They grew arrogant and decided to build a tower to “Make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered across the Earth,” or in other words, to challenge the Big Guy by building a tower that would rise high enough to reach His level. God takes issue with this, gets angry and “confounds their tongues”, so that they couldn’t understand each other, thus, preventing them from finishing the tower. God then proceeded to spread them across the globe, providing the story for why we have different languages today. The unfinished tower was called Babel, which sounds like the Jewish form of the word, “confused”.
This directly correlates with my state of mind as I watched this movie. And in case you thought you were reading a sermon, yes, this story has a direct link with The Offering’s story line.
I’ll try to provide a synopsis for this movie, but first a warning: there are possible spoilers ahead and definitely some Babel.
The movie starts off with an exorcism gone bad. Father DeSilva (Borgonon), is left questioning his faith. At least I think so, because after this two minute scene, we don’t see him again until close to the third act.
Cut to Chicago. Jamie Waters (Rice) is a crime journalist who finds out her sister Anna (Condy) has passed away in Singapore where she lived with her daughter, Katie (Hertz). After travelling to Singapore, and meeting with the doctors there, Jamie is informed that her sister’s death was a suicide. It’s thought that the suicide is due to the fact that Anna has lived with a Huntington’s disease, a very painful disease which she shares with her daughter Katie. The doctors then try to lessen the blow of the news by showing Jamie the suicide video of Anna suffocating herself with a plastic bag. (Did you catch the sarcasm, there? Just checking.)
After meeting Katie and Anna’s ex-husband Sam Harris (Settle), Jamie begins to investigate Anna’s death when Katie insists that her mother told her she would return in seven days. She uncovers other weird suicides with similarities to Anna’s; the other suicide victims also have terminal illnesses, film their own suicide, and claim they will return in seven days.
Around the same time, a young preacher, Father Tan (Adrian Pang), is investigating the desecration of various church websites by hackers. A strange symbol that looks like an old wooden telephone pole with a bow tie, appears everywhere on the websites. Father Tan tries to enlist the aid of Father DeSilva, who couldn’t care less. Remember, he is wallowing in a crisis of faith (I think), and leaves Father Tan to his own devices.
Meanwhile, back at the home of Anna Waters, Katie is having trouble with some ghosts who are trying to warn her of something that happened in the house a long time ago. She is warned that “He” is coming back. Jamie and Sam try to convince her that her mother is not coming back, but she’s not having it.
Father Tan finally realizes that the hacking is being done by a very evil entity who is using binary code as the “One Language”, just as in the book of Genesis, to influence people and rebuild the Tower of Babel. Oh yeah, and he also needs to possess Katie as well.
If this synopsis feels like it’s all over the place, it’s because it is. The script has way too much going on and doesn’t slow down to really develop any of it’s ideas. The whole concept of binary code being used to bring about an ancient evil is very interesting to me and would be a fresh idea if done properly. And it just isn’t, I’m afraid. The basic idea of the movie takes a backseat to a lot of standard possession movie tropes, and because of that, the film doesn’t know what it wants to be. It tries to make the whole thing a mystery, but it’s one the audience can figure out way before they are supposed to.
Is it a redemption story? It tries to be. Is it a straight up ghost story? It tries to be. Is it a possession story? It tries to be. It tries to be a lot of things and ends up being, well, all of the above, but only to it’s detriment. Everything is stretched way to thin in the hour-and-a-half running time and nothing is well developed. It’s a great idea that in the end just winds up being something we’ve seen a hundred times before. Literally. There are scenes lifted directly from The Exorcist, The Conjuring and even Evil Dead.
Being Singapore’s first foray into Hollywood film making could be the reason this is kind of an all things to all people kind of movie. The Offering feels like they are trying to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, and a lot of story and character development gets sacrificed for that reason. Kelvin Tong has a good eye for the camera and there are some really good shots in this film, despite the screenplay flaws. The way he moves the camera around is very interesting. The music is good as well and sets a suspenseful mood in a lot of spots. I would definitely be interested to see more from him on the right project. Technically, it’s a very well shot film. Story-wise, though, I just wish The Offering had a little more meat on it’s bones.
The Offering (2 / 5)
Momentum Pictures is proud to present THE OFFERING, in select U.S. theaters and VOD nationwide this Friday, May 6, 2016!