Dropping what could be her return to the world of journalism, Jamie Waters, a successful reporter, flies to Singapore to investigate the apparent suicide of her sister Anna, who was afflicted with very a serious disease, which also Kathie, her niece, suffers from. After several awkward meetings with Sam, her estranged brother-in-law, they decide to work together and soon they discover a series of suicides, all having a strange symbol in the scene of their deaths, that are not only connected to Anna, but are also part of an event that will bring to the realm of the living an entity that has been waiting for many years its chance .
Their discovery, in a twist of faith, will cross paths with the story of father James De Silva, a priest that has been limited to giving lectures about religion and lore after an exorcism ended with death. Recently, however, father De Silva was contacted by another priest who claims to have discovered that a dark force will emerge not from old manuscripts or forgotten prophecies, but by using the same modern technology that man is so proud and fond of. But how is this related to Jamie and her family, or to the house where they are living now? And why Kathie insists that her mother will come back on the seven day?
Ok, “The Offering” (also know as “The Faith of Anna Waters”) might seem at first glance just another run-of-the-mill flick that deals with haunted houses and/or possessions (And to tell you the truth, the trailer does not help to dissuade us from that idea), but the director Kelvin Tong with his script tries to bring something different from all those films that we might have seen recently, and to be fair, it does succeeds in several ways. The problem is, however, that while the story deals with very interesting themes like the legend of the Tower of Babel (Or “History”, for some), the fall of the “Only Language” and its parallel with our current connectivity as humans thanks to the advances of the digital era, the film also falls into clichés and scenes that we have seen too often, and there are elements that do not contribute much to the story, and even seems that they were put in the movie just for padding (in order to fill the runtime quota) or by the influence of some nosy producer that felt the need to justify his/her name on the credits.
(Fun Fact: said elements are NOT in the trailer, which confirms my theory that you could remove them from the film and far from hurting the story, it make it better)
Is admirable when a film tries to present several stories at the same time and somehow manages to balance the subplots in order to present a bigger idea, unfortunately is very hard to also keep the audience entertained, and keep track of everything without getting lost (or bored), and while “The Offering” keeps itself (barely) from becoming a boring film, at times it feels tired, and ends up with some elements not connecting completely. Still, while there are some typical scare jumps, fake scares and repetitive gimmicks (like peeking thru crystals, telescopes and other windows of some kind) there also several well done scenes that save the film, and even better, they take place in plain daylight, where we clearly can see what is happening.
Now, something that didn’t quiet click with me is how the two stories (or investigations, if you rather call them that) get connected just before the third act, and to me they even feel like two ( DARE I SAY, THREE?) different movies, joined together via re-shoots or rewrites. Somehow I didn’t buy how the characters just suddenly acted like “Hey, let’s all be friends and join forces to fight this bad guy” BUT I admit that I liked that the story was not completely all the time on “Team Jamie” nor “Team Father” so take my rant with a grain of salt…. Still, I feel that the whole subplot of the family that lived previously on the house could have been either cut or sumarized and thus have a stronger film.
While I believe that most of the cast did a good job with the performances, I have to mention that at times the Kathie character annoyed me like hell, and some of her dialogues sounded fake, like when you listen to a BAD DUBBED ANIME, where the voice does not match the character or the emotion that they are trying to sell you at the moment. On the other hand, the special effects were very good, including the make up effects, and while this is not a film with tons of explicit violence, there is some gore that might make some people uneasy. I thought that the mention and inclusion of the Huntington disease in the story worked very well and without going for the sentimental blackmail makes you care about certain characters and understand their positions regarding some religious beliefs.
At the end of the day, “The Offering” or “The Faith Of Anna Waters” (I truly don’t know which title sounds more cheesy or tired these days, but I think that the second one makes a lot more sense AFTER you see the film), is a film with a lot of potential, a very interesting premise and with several points that make it stand out, but also has several elements that make the movie a little bit too generic that might keep some viewers away , especially because the use of scenes that look like tons of films that we have watch in the last 10 years. (AGAIN, the trailer DOES NOT HELP). Still, all been said, I do recommend to see it when it gets released on VOD and selected theaters on Friday, May 6th courtesy of Momentum Pictures.
“The Offering” was written and directed by Kelvin Tong, and has the talents of Elizabeth Rice (Margaret Hargrove in “Mad Men”), Matthew Settle (Ouija), Colin Borgonon and Pamelyn Chee among others.