Saturday, April 29, 2017

Burnt Offerings - Spoiled by Oliver Reed

I know you're not supposed to spoil a book by watching the movie first...I KNOW...but I didn't know about the book before I knew about the movie. I rented it for the first time at a Blockbuster, what does that tell you? Anyway, I went into Robert Marasco's Burnt Offerings with high expectations, because the 1976 film adaptation, starring my favorite sot, Oliver Reed, and horror queen Karen Black, is sooo freakin' good! That movie is hands down the best haunted house movie I've ever seen. It's better than Poltergeist, better than The Shining, better than The Amityville Horror. There. I've said it.

It's a combination of things, really-the story itself, of course-the absolutely frightening scenario of a sentient house- and the perfect film quality that I love so much about 70's horror.  I was overjoyed when Valancourt Books released a new edition of this tale, and snatched it right up. It revolves around the Rolfes who, tired of their cramped Queens apartment, head all the way out to the tip of Long Island to enjoy a gorgeous, if run-down, summer home. Mrs. Rolfe, an antiques freak, is ecstatic, even though Mr. Rolfe knows it's too good a deal to be true, and the owners, the Allardyces, are a bit eccentric, leaving their dear mother holed up at the top of the house to be cared for, but rarely if ever seen.

The chauffeur, for example, came across much better
in the film. Just look at that smile!

Reading the slim volume, I felt I did not enjoy this as much as I would have if the story were fresh to me. The film I love so much hews very close to the book, you see, so there really weren't any surprises. Although, the things this house does to keep its guests polarized from each other are certainly unique from other stories of haunted houses. What I appreciated more in the nuance of the writing was the depth of that polarization. You see, even in the slow start to the horror, that a vacation that was meant to allow the Rolfe family some quality time together actually tears them apart. More of the responsibility of that is laid at Mrs. Rolfe's feet, who increasingly chooses the house, and everything in it, over the pleas of her husband, aunt, and young son. When things start getting downright scary, she denies, ignores, conceals..anything to keep her from giving up what she's always dreamed of. And then there's Mrs. Allardyce, and the incessant humming noise that emanates from her room.

A happily married couple-yeah, right.

Without spoiling it for anyone (the book or the film), there were certain things that were more powerful in the film, because the visuals of certain things struck the right mood, but the book did end on a darker note than the film did. As a mother myself, who may or may not have some of the same interests in gloriously old houses, I was disturbed.

I highly recommend both of these works.

K Rating: 9/10

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