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Mrs. Allardyce

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Mrs. Allardyce (Burnt Offerings)

Our darling mother.
~ Roz Allardyce describing her mother and the refurbished house.
She's back in all her glory.
~ Arnold Allardyce describing his mother and the house.

Mrs. Allardyce is the unseen main antagonist in Robert Marasco's horror novel "Burnt Offerings," adapted into the 1976 film by Dan Curtis. She is never seen in person, leaving her true identity ambiguous. Is she a ghost? or a subhuman? Some kind of vampire? Mrs. Allardyce is first introduced to the plot by her elderly adult children, daughter Roz, and son Arnold. Although, since most of the villains in the film and book are left ambiguous, it is possible that Roz and Arnold are just entities which the house created. Mrs. Allardyce is described as an 85-year-old woman who could pass for sixty. She is feeble and never leaves her room in the attic of her mansion, which is being inhabited for the summer by the Rolfes. Marian (Karen Black), Ben (Oliver Reed), son David (Lee H. Montgomery), and Ben's elderly aunt Elizabeth (Bette Davis). Roz and Arnold speculate that the one condition for leasing the house is that their mother be cared for. Ben is at first apprehensive, so Marian agrees to take care of her. In her attic, Mrs. Allardyce has photos which resemble the Rolfe family throughout the ages. Mrs. Allardyce is never shown, but Marian sees her, and she appears to be eating.

Marian becomes almost obsessive in taking care of her, and at one point Aunt Elizabeth comes up to meet her, but is stopped by Marian. Throughout the novel and movie, Mrs. Allardyce is shown to be the embodiment of the house, suggesting the house to be a living thing. Much like the Overlook Hotel in Stephen King's "The Shining", Mrs. Allardyce influences homicidal behavior in the occupants. And causes strange incidents to happen, as the house feeds off of fear, pain and death. For instance, at one point, David is sucked into the swimming pool, and is almost drowned by Ben, only to be saved by Marian. At another point, Aunt Elizabeth is influenced to lock David in his room, almost suffocating him with the radiator. She appears to Ben (if it is Mrs. Allardyce) as a chauffeur he saw at his parents' funeral. The chauffeur has a creepy smile, and appears to Ben as a symbol of death. He appears as Aunt Elizabeth dies in her bed (held down by invisible forces, most likely Mrs. Allardyce.) And again as Ben and David make a failed escape from the house.

In the end, the three remaining Rolfe's attempt to flee the house, however, Marian goes up to tell Mrs. Allardyce that they are leaving. When she is absent for too long, Ben goes up to look for her. In the attic, he is faced with a white haired old woman. It is revealed to be Marian, having been possessed by Mrs. Allardyce. She says: "I've been waiting for you Ben," before pushing him out the window. He falls to his death causing a terrified David to run. He is, however killed by a falling chimney. In a final sequence, an unseen Roz and Arnold comment that their mother has returned to them, as they look at the regenerated house. The photos are then shown again, showing pictures of Elizabeth, David and Ben.

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