Oddity (2024)

Oddity Review


The newest film from Irish writer-director Damian McCarthy, who last year released “Caveat,” reveals a secret that is so dark it involves human evil and supernatural retribution.

In the opening minutes of “Oddity,” a woman faces an impossible choice. Home alone while her doctor husband works the night shift at a psychiatric hospital, she answers the door to find a strange man with one eye, who insists he’s not the threat but that another person inside the large, isolated house someone trying to hurt her is. Should she let him in or ignore his warning? It’s a hair-raising scenario that taps right into one’s anxieties and sets up what promises to be an unsettling ride; IFC will release theatrically before streaming on Shudder.

What happens next and why won’t be explained immediately because McCarthy deliberately muddles the sequence of events in this effectively scary and unexpectedly funny haunted-house horror, the second feature from Irish writer-director Damian McCarthy (“Caveat”). Flash forward several months and Ted (Gwilym Lee), our doctor, tacitly tells us that his wife Dani (Carolyn Bracken) was killed after that scene.

We understand as much from Ted’s casual stop into Dani’s oddities shop, where her blind twin sister Darcy also works (also Bracken). A self-professed medium, Darcy claims she can learn about those who are gone by touching something they owned skin contact preferred. She winces when Ted tells her he has a new girlfriend named Yana (Caroline Menton), another former co-worker who refuses to spend any more nights alone in the place where this happened.

Darcy gets suspicious and shows up unannounced at Ted’s mansion. She brings along a creepy wooden mannequin thing that looks like a mummy it used to belong to their parents. This is where “Oddity” stumbles, it never really develops the mythology around the strange object or the keepsakes stuffed inside its head holes. The thing itself evokes the image of a tortured soul in purgatory and eventually becomes very important to the plot, but McCarthy can’t seem to decide if he wants its origin to be totally murky or if he should fully lean into it. He hints at major significance for Darcy, but doesn’t let us in on what secrets it’s keeping.

McCarthy is most interested in pitting human evil against supernatural retribution: Spirits only return to this plane if they have unfinished business with those who wronged them here, basically. But despite such a solemn otherworldly concept, there are lots of jokes especially when Yana and Darcy have to sit together. Bracken walks that line between unsettling seriousness and flippancy well as the resolute Darcy taps into her connection with the dead to figure out what happened to her beloved Dani

However, as the night continues on, “Oddity” goes into overdrive in its journey towards being scary. McCarthy and his editor Brian Philip Davis have a skillful sense of when to hit the high-voltage moments; one sequence involving a ghost inside the house and a camera’s shutter sound (which recalls an earlier, crucial scene) is more than just another short-lived jump scare. It’s so good that it might make you want to keep the lights on at home for a while. And that’s not even getting into Steve Wall’s villainously matter-of-fact portrayal of Ted’s orderly Ivan, who is no match for the resident ghost.

Set almost entirely within what is now Ted and Dina’s cursed home, “Oddity” does right by this ancient residence’s strange geography. There are two sets of wooden stairs in the dining room: one leads from there to upstairs main room where Yana spends most of her time. Cinematographer Colm Hogan shoots these steps very inventively more than once: during a chase that feels like it could go on forever, or as Yana stares down at them while contemplating the wooden figure she holds in her hand. There is also an ominously nondescript trap door (which we see used later), and a bathroom that works but is only downstairs which forces Yana out of her perceived safety zone later on in the movie. Basically, this house has such an unusual layout that it never stops feeling important.

Until its final shot which is both funny and reassuring in its promise that somebody will pay dearly for Dani’s death “Oddity” plays with various characters skepticism about what lies beyond this world. But clearly, if only within the reality of this movie itself, there are spirits waiting to be summoned from whatever realm they dwell in.

Watch Oddity For Free On Gomovies.

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