Dan Curtis has co-written the script for Burnt Offerings with William F. Nolan, a veteran sf and thriller writer, who wrote The Norliss Tapes, The Turn of the Screw and Trilogy of Terror for Curtis, but is best known for co-authoring the novel that became the basis for Logans Run (1976). They in turn adapt a 1973 novel from Robert Marasco, a minor horror writer who also authored the Catholic boys boarding school Gothic Childs Play (1972).
Strictly speaking, Burnt Offerings is not a haunted house film it is more a psychic vampire house film but in all essential regards it conforms to the traits of the haunted house genre. The films one novelty is the concept of the house itself. There are no ghosts here, just an ominous house that appears to feed on malice, physically renovating itself with each accident or death. There are some reasonable effects in the scenes where we see the old boards physically crumbling off the house to reveal brand new ones underneath.
Unfortunately, this remains a good idea, nothing more. Dan Curtis lets the film unfold at a plodding pace. It is almost as though he was conceptually still making another tv movie. He even plods along like he was trying to pad time between commercial breaks. Everything is shot through with a wistfully autumnal lens that wrings any atmosphere of foreboding out of the film. It seems to take forever to wind up to surprises that the house is regenerating, that there isnt anybody upstairs that the audience has guessed over half-an-hour before.
Oliver Reed proves a solid trooper, while Bette Davis is okay in a filler role as the auntie, although gives the impression she wants to get her teeth into something more substantial. Karen Black, who became famous in her cult role in Dan Curtiss Trilogy of Terror, gives a bland performance that lacks much conviction. The one other complaint is that the title Burnt Offerings is a misnomer there are no sacrificial offerings being made, nor anything or anybody that ever gets burnt.