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Poster for Burnt Offerings
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Burnt Offerings

Director: Dan Curtis Run Time: 116 min. Format: 35mm Rating: R Release Year: 1976

Starring: , Bette Davis, Burgess Meredith, Eileen Heckart, Karen Black, Oliver Reed

Based on Robert Marasco’s chilling novel, Burnt Offerings epitomizes the phrase “if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.” It is part of our mini-retrospective series, THE WORKS: KAREN BLACK.

Desperate to escape the city, Ben and Marion Rolf along with their son David, take over a dilapidated house for the summer to get some much needed family time. The house super affordable but there’s a catch – they have to take care of the old recluse “Mrs. Allardyce” during their stay.

Burnt Offerings tackles domesticity in a very frightful way. The house has a mysterious life force of its own, one that slowly absorbs Marion into the honorable role of its “mother” while killing the others in order to complete its ritualistic rejuvenation. Hazy shots and slow narrative build only compound the eery realization that something is changing the Rolfs. The breakdown of the family is scary enough but it’s the dream-induced chauffeur character who has been the stuff of nightmares ever since the film’s release.  

In the role of Marion Rolf, Karen Black plays a woman who becomes obsessed, and possessed, by a house; leaving her family behind for a new role as “mother.” Burnt Offerings is also packed with incredible performances by Oliver Reed, Burgess Meredith, Eileen Heckart, and Bette Davis, no less.