Mannequin Horror Movie ‘Oddity’ Review

Horror


Writer/Director Damian Mc Carthy‘s sophomore effort, Oddity, serves as a welcome extension of his feature debut, Caveat, in many ways. Aside from the brief return of at least one familiar face and a nightmare bunny, Oddity continues the filmmaker’s exploration of supernatural karma and retribution with offbeat characters and a unique vision for scares. Armed with a tighter narrative, a lighter tone, and a creepy mannequin, Mc Carthy further establishes his horror style.

Oddity begins with an intense scenario that sees a woman, Dani (You Are Not My MotherCarolyn Bracken), forced to decide whether to trust the desperate stranger at her door, insisting someone snuck into her empty, rural house when she wasn’t looking. Dani’s ultimate decision sets up the overarching mystery. A quick time jump ahead reveals that Dani was murdered that fateful night and that her husband, Ted (Gwilym Lee), is attempting to move on with a new love, Yana (Caroline Menton). But Dani’s sister Darcy (also Bracken), a blind psychic who collects cursed objects, isn’t ready to let go without determining the truth and bringing Dani’s death to justice.

Carolyn Bracken, pulling double duty here, makes for a formidable lead. Our fleeting moments with Dani present a free-spirited, kind and savvy photographer, instantly instilling emotional investment in Darcy’s bid for answers. As Darcy, Bracken builds a more enigmatic figure, one that dabbles in curiosities in ways that make those around her uncomfortable. That’s especially the case with Caroline Menton’s Yaya, a prickly pharmaceutical rep who’s stuck babysitting Darcy while Ted works nights at the hospital. While Mc Carthy does flesh out Ted through his work at the hospital, where Caveat fans will spot actor Johnny French, it’s Bracken’s commanding presence that demands audience allegiance.

There’s an underlying simplicity to the narrative that Mc Carthy keeps engaging through nonlinear storytelling. Withholding the reveal of Dani’s death, skipping ahead a year post-death, and intercut flashbacks to flesh out the mystery piecemeal ensures the narrative maintains momentum. Some of the answers can be predicted ahead of their reveals, but it’s such a fascinating journey that it’s never to the film’s detriment.

More importantly, Mc Carthy employs interesting scare tactics to keep audiences on their toes. While Darcy’s distinctly creepy mannequin serves up plenty of eerie moments, the most potent chill-inducing scares are often the simplest in setup and execution. As attention-grabbing as the mannequin can be, expect it to play a similar role to Caveat’s mechanical bunny. In other words, it’s not the star of this horror show. The more revealed about Dani’s death, however, the less effective the scares as Mc Carthy switches gears to deliver supernatural karma right up to a comedic punchline ending, delivered with a wry wink.

Like CaveatOddity sets its strange murder mystery in a creepy, isolated home and employs an unsettling mascot to signal the paranormal. Oddity even teases the fate of some of Caveat’s characters. But Mc Carthy’s latest sets itself apart with its fixation on superstition and a winsome macabre sense of humor. The pared-back storytelling lets its horror elements and dual performances from Carolyn Bracken shine.

There’s a more assured tone and polished plotting to Oddity that makes it easy to hope Mc Carthy continues his exploration of this strange, frequently haunting cinematic universe. A supernatural revenge trilogy, perhaps?

Oddity made its World Premiere at SXSW. The Shudder original is expected to release Summer 2024.

3.5 out of 5



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