Directed by Oliver Park, ‘The Offering’ is a folk horror film based on Judaism and its mystical elements. The film features Nick Blood, Emily Wiseman, and Paul Kaye, among others, and revolves around an ancient demon named Abyzou. After a ritual committed by a desperate widower sets her free, she sets her sights on Arthur’s wife, Claire, and her unborn child. Haunted by eldritch primordial horror, Arthur tries to save his family while reconciling with his orthodox Hasidic father.
This supernatural horror film focuses on its protagonist’s Hasidic roots and delves into themes of community and family. Depicting several Jewish practices and exploring them in a modern setting through the Hasidic community, the narrative compels people to wonder about its connections to reality. As such, if you’d like to know more about the origin of ‘The Offering,’ here is everything you need to know.
Is The Offering a True Story?
No, ‘The Offering’ is not based on a true story. Instead, it is based on a screenplay by Hank Hoffman from a story by him and Jonathan Yunger. The writers were inspired by the ancient Jewish myth of Abyzou from the Near East and European regions. In Jewish mythology, Abyzou was the demon said to be responsible for miscarriages and infant mortality. As such, in the film, Abyzou preys on vulnerable families to quell her hunger for children. In director Oliver Park’s words, “Abyzou is one of the oldest, most prolific demons in history. She crosses religions. She’s the taker of children. She could— for all we know, could be Lilith, the female devil herself.”
Jewish stories and myths have been in cinematic history for a long time. The first horror franchise, ‘Der Golem’ of 1915, a German silent horror film, was based on Jewish mythology. As such, it has left a lasting influence and legacy on Jewish horror films and the horror genre as a whole. Park, though not Jewish himself, has always been interested in exploring Jewish stories within the horror genre.
Due to his interest and fascination with Jewish horror films, when Park first read the script for ‘The Offering,’ originally intended to be titled Abyzou, he was eager to participate in the project. Since, Abyzou forms such an important center for the base premise of the film, it possesses deep roots in the Judaism religion and culture. The movie depicts several sigils, prayers, and spells that all have a firm basis in reality.
“We put in authentic spells,” revealed Hoffman in an interview while discussing the movie. “We put in spells that were long buried that your average yeshiva bocher doesn’t even know exists. The thing is that Yiddish in these books is going extinct, and so what this film also is a museum of lost images and a lost language.” Similarly, the filmmakers added several other easter eggs in the background and set designs, with hidden meanings relating to the Jewish religion and history.
Yunger and Hoffman are Jewish and imbued this story with authentic representations of their own experiences and philosophies. Hoffman himself is a second-generation Israeli immigrant who moved to Toronto when he was two years old and attended Jewish schools during childhood. At 18, Hoffman, the son of an Orthodox Rabbi, worked at The Benjamin’s Park Memorial Chapel as an overnight shomer in the morgue. As such, there is an obvious parallel to be drawn between Hoffman and ‘The Offering’s’ protagonist, Arthur.
Moreover, due to the writers’ Jewish backgrounds, Hoffman and Yunger drew inspiration from the Hasidic people they had crossed paths with in their childhoods from their respective communities. “… Because Yoni and I have a sensitivity around Antisemitism, specifically, the misrepresentation of Hasidic people, we realized that this could be more than just a horror film,” Hoffman stated in the same interview. “This was an opportunity to make people care for the lives of an under-misrepresented minority in America that was being portrayed in a way where you almost want them to get punished.’
Ultimately considering the film’s basis in the supernatural, ‘The Offering’ is not based on a true story. Nevertheless, it is based on the Judaism religion and its extensive mythological history. Likewise, it takes heavy inspiration from the real-life experiences of writers Hank Hoffman and Jonathan Yunger. With narrative themes and plot points involving Jewish/Hasidic elements, the film aims to present an equal parts compelling and terrifying fictional tale about an underrepresented community.
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