Burnt Offerings is a 1976 mystery horror film based on the 1973 novel of the same name by Robert Marasco. It was the first movie to be filmed at the Dunsmuir House. It is about a family who moves into a haunted house that rejuvenates itself with each injury and death that occurs inside of it. The film stars Burgess Meredith (Torture Garden), Karen Black (Trilogy of Terror, Invaders from Mars), Oliver Reed (Paranoiac), and Bette Davis (The Nanny) and was directed by Dan Curtis (Trilogy of Terror)
The Rolf family takes a vacation from the city at a large Victorian era mansion in the California countryside. The family consists of Marian (Karen Black), her husband Ben (Oliver Reed), their young son David (Lee Montgomery), and their elderly aunt Elizabeth (Bette Davis). The owners of the house are the Allardyce siblings, brother Arnold and sister Roz, played by actors Burgess Meredith and Eileen Heckart, respectively. The Allardyces appear at the beginning of the film when they inform their new tenants of a particularly odd requirement for their rental: that the Allardyces’ elderly mother continues to live in her upstairs room and the Rolfs provide her with food during their stay. The siblings explain that the old woman is obsessed with privacy and will probably not interact with them, so meals are to be left outside her door.
As it turns out, this task falls to the mother who quickly succumbs to the allure of the ornate house and its period decor. Various “accidents” occur during the summer, including the suspicious death of Aunt Elizabeth. As the film progresses, Ben becomes increasingly depressed and anxious while Marian becomes increasingly obsessed with the house, the old woman in the attic, and all of the Victorian artifacts. It gradually becomes clear that Marian is somehow being possessed or controlled by the house and that a malevolent force is slowly consuming the family.
“Burnt Offerings is kind of an update of the House of Usher story, in that the house is the real living monster and that theme is well drawn out here. Without elaborate special effects, the PG-rated film is able to convey a sense of unknown menace, and although the ending is predictable (maybe it wasn’t back in ’76), it’s still quite eerie, commencing very violently. Reed and Black are good as always, and Davis is given a smaller sympathetic part, rather than the wicked bitches she was accustomed to playing at this time in her life. Great support is provided by Eileen Heckart and Burgess Meredith as the suspiciously eccentric sister/brother owners of the house, as well as character great Dub Taylor as a handyman.” George R Reis, DVD Drive-In
“As much as it may sound like typical fare, the execution and underlying plot of Burnt Offerings is pure genius. The house itself is almost a living thing, destroying lives in its quest for perpetual “youth.” While many people found it too slow paced, I found it to move at a nice, deliberate trot. It’s genuinely good stuff.” Carl Lyon, Monsters at Play
Thanks to Poster Perversion for the Mexican lobby card.