‘Oddity’ Review — This Supernatural Horror Film Will Tear You to Pieces

Mar 9, 2024

The Big Picture

is another horror gem from writer-director Damian McCarthy that grows on you.
The film follows Dani, a medium mourning the loss of a sister, and her search for answers in the supernatural.
Carolyn Bracken’s performance is another completely enthralling piece of work, bringing surprising emotional heft.

Too often, horror films aren’t nearly as scary as they should be. Some of this may come from my seeing a whole bunch of them and growing accustomed to the way they often play out. Still, there is a general sense that modern horror is living in the shadow of the pinnacle of what once was. Before this sounds too much like grumbling about the “good ol’ days,” it should be noted that there are still truly great horror films being made on a smaller scale. The trouble is, for every film that creates a one-of-a-kind vision or takes a bold new approach to a familiar genre, there are massive flops that feel like cynical, unscary cash grabs chasing what has already been done rather than being fresh creative endeavors.

Thankfully, there are films like Oddity that fall into the creative category. Written and directed by Damian McCarthy, whose feature debut Caveat was a wonderfully chilling introduction, it is as genuinely scary as it is darkly funny. Remaining aware of genre enough to playfully skewer it just as it manages to be truly terrifying in an almost classical sense, it is the type of film that grows on you. When the bottom drops out from under it, you feel every moment of the fall.

What Is ‘Oddity’ About?
This all begins with Dani (Carolyn Bracken) who is working alone in a remote house in Ireland. She calls her physician husband Ted (Gwilym Lee) to let him know of her progress while he works late. Things are peacefully, petrifyingly quiet, which makes the arrival of one of Ted’s former patients, Olin (Tadhg Murphy) all the more jarring. As he tries to warn Dani that someone or something is in the house, begging for her to let him in through a locked door so he can find it, she seems about ready to do so. We then cut to the title and flash forward a year to learn she was brutally killed that night. Olin is blamed for the murder, but there seems to be much unresolvedthat everyone is trying to move past as quickly as they can.

Not only is Ted still living there, but he is doing so with his new girlfriend Yana (Caroline Menton), whom he met through his work. When Dani’s sister Darcy, also played by Bracken, arrives at the house bearing a strange gift, neither Ted nor Yana quite know what to do. Eventually, he goes off to work, and she stays for longer than she had hoped to do so. Darcy, a blind medium who can see into the past and people when she comes into contact with an object that was close to them, begins to piece together more of what went on that night.

The less that is known about the precise way this all unfolds, the better your experience will be, even as some elements end up being more simple and straightforward in retrospect. There is one more thing that can be discussed and that is the gift Darcy brings with her. A wooden man that almost looks as if Pinocchio grew up into a being that was perpetually screaming in immense pain, it sits almost perfectly still in the home when you can see it and then changes when you can’t. It’s often familiar in how it presents this, but still frighteningly effective. Some of this comes down to the design of the creature, which looks authentically carved from wood from certain angles while seeming more alive in others, but there is also much to be praised about the way it is all presented as well. Every time you don’t see it, you’re thinking about what the hell it could be doing. What you don’t see is just as scary as what you do.

The film has a strong sense of patience, building up a sense of dread until it is almost suffocating. There are bursts of brutality and some moments designed to make you jump, though these work because of the more restrained way we are taken further into the darkness. Spending time primarily either in the isolated residence with Yana and Darcy or at Ted’s work, McCarthy never once misses an opportunity to keep cranking up the dread. Whether it is in the more delightful jokes that acknowledge some of its silliness or the increasingly supernatural forces that are at play, never once are you not locked in.

Carolyn Bracken Is Completely Enthralling in ‘Oddity’
Image via SXSW

As we then arrive at a crushing yet cathartic conclusion, much of the film falls to Bracken to carry it home. Not only is she more than up to the task, but she gives it a surprising emotional heft in a final sequence that tears you to pieces. No stranger to giving great performances in horror, having similarly disappeared into her role in the disquieting recent film You Are Not My Mother, we can feel so much of what becomes a more frighteningly familiar terror just based around her performance. Though the film is relatively confined in terms of how long we get to spend with her character, it is Bracken who makes it feel immense as we get to the tragic end.

It is she who gives both life and death to McCarthy’s dark tale, making it impossible to look away just as we fear what it is that we will see there. That some of the final revelations carry with them a sense of lingering sadness and unresolved agony makes this cut all the deeper. When its final moments ring through the nearly empty home, Oddity provides one closing reminder of what may be lurking out there. As we learn when it is almost too late, sometimes the most terrifying things in our lives are those that come knocking from inside the house.

Oddity REVIEWOddity is another horror gem from writer-director Damian McCarthy with an enthralling performance by Carolyn Bracken. ProsOddity is a patient yet petrifying work of horror that is truly scary in a way that can feel unfortunately all too rare.The wooden man is not only well-designed, but the way McCarthy captures it creates a creeping sense of dread.Some delightful jokes that acknowledge some of its silliness fit in perfectly with the supernatural forces that comes knocking.

Oddity had its World Premiere at the 2024 SXSW Film & TV Festival. It will be available to stream on Shudder in the U.S. this summer.


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