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来源:眼花耳熱網编辑:時尚时间:2024-07-15 16:27:06

Oddity begins with an impossible choice. A woman alone in a remote country house hears a knock at the door. There, a strange man with panic in his stare declares she mustlet him in. He claims to have seen someone sneak into her home, and tells her she is not safe. She doesn't have her phone with her. And was the creak upstairs an intruder? Or just an old house settling? Dare she stay inside with an unknown threat? Or go outside with a disheveled stranger whose presence is as alarming as his appearance? 

Writer/director Damian McCarthy hooks viewers from the start with this scary scenario. But then he takes a radical turn. Instead of following this poor woman named Dani (Carolyn Bracken) through a night of terror and threat, he leaps to a full year later, where her sister Darcy (also played by Bracken), a blind medium who owns an oddity shop, is seeking to understand exactly what did go down that terrible night. (Spoiler: It was nothing good.) 

This nonchalant temporal leap pitches viewers off-balance, like when a roller coaster abruptly tilts to the side, precise and perturbing. As he did with his stellar feature directorial debut, 2021's Caveat, McCarthy doesn't play by the cliched rules of horror. So, a slasher setup spins into a tale of ghosts, witchcraft, a murder investigation, and grim vengeance. Atmospheric and unpredictable, Oddity is a rare treasure. 

What's Oddity about? 

The main thrust of the plot follows Darcy as she intrudes on the renovated home of her sister and the renovated life of Dani's uptight widower, Ted (Gwilym Lee), and his new girlfriend, Yana (Caroline Menton). On the one-year anniversary of Dani's death, Darcy pays an unexpected visit and brings an unusual family heirloom. As in Caveat,a creepy handmade figure plays a central role in McCarthy's haunted house tale. There, it was a festering rabbit toy that banged cymbals. (Eagle-eyed viewers might spot it on display in Darcy's shop!) In Oddity, the creepy craft is a full-sized man, carved out of wood, his mouth agape in a silent scream.

Understandably, Ted isn't keen to keep this eerie thing around. But he's got work at the asylum to get back to, so he awkwardly excuses himself, leaving his flustered girlfriend home alone with Darcy and her demented bauble. It's not long before unnerving things begin to happen around the house. Is Dani's ghost haunting the place? Is Darcy toying with this surviving couple out of a twisted sense of retribution for so swiftly moving on? Is the wooden man really moving on his own? As magic and mental illness play a part of the story, anything is possible, which is precisely what makes Oddity so thrilling. 

Damian McCarthy builds an expanding horror universe with Oddity

Nods to Caveat aside, the stranger at the door is named Olin Boole (Tadhg Murphy), a fellow with a prosthetic eye and a tragic backstory that was unfurled in McCarthy's short film "How Olin Lost His Eye." Beyond a crossover of props and characters that may not be explicitly bound, McCarthy is brewing a brand of horror that's mind-bending, menacing, and so putrid with decay you can practically smell the rot. Like poor Dani, the hero of Caveat (played by Jonathan French, who also pops up in Oddity) was also put in a curious position at the film's start: a job offer that might seem bizarre, but is desperately needed. So what's a set of shackles between paychecks? 

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In Oddity, rather than a house in ruins, Dani's home is a historic old home being carefully renovated. A collision of coarse stone walls and modern paintings pinned upon them shows not only the contrast of old and new, but also the past of Dani colliding with the present of Yana, her youthful, smirking replacement. McCarthy smartly accentuates this dynamic in his use of color. Cool tones like the blue-grey stone or Yana's shiny navy blouse present a world of seeming civility, entitlement, and order. But splashes of stark red blood or the bright yellow of the pup tent in which Dani once slept stand out, driving home the dissonance of random acts of violence in this supposedly reasonable world. There's an elegance amid this eeriness, even in the design of the wooden golem, plugged up with bobs of blood, hair, and family photos. He is at once gorgeous and horrific; clearly static, yet so lifelike that when Yana irreverently pokes her hand into his open mouth, your body may well rattle with the anticipatory fear of a gnarly bite!

Every twisted turn is smoothly made, thanks not only to McCarthy's skill in honing tone, but also courtesy of an ensemble cast that delivers performances grounded yet edged with intensity. Pulling double duty, Bracken gracefully switches from the easy-breezy Dani to the dubious Darcy, her physicality growing tighter as her broad smile tightens to sharp grin. Lee brings surly irritation as the widower, playing Ted like a pretentious schoolmaster tired of lecturing children that there are no monsters under their beds. Murphy and French fold in layers of fear and panic in small but pivotal roles, while Menton delivers a sophisticated snottiness that makes her a sharp foil to the scheming Darcy. All in all, it's a cast of characters at each others' throats, and utterly mesmerizing. 

Oddity is a savage original.

Incredibly, McCarthy weaves in elements of many horror genres. The remote setting and ghostly possibilities lean into haunted house territory. But Darcy's wooden man was made by a witch (so she says), skewing the plot into dark magic. Dani's sequence, with its isolation, intrusion, and bloody result, plays out like a slasher. Then, the central conflict between the could-be newlyweds and Darcy strums at the core of folk horror, in which educated city folk come to a rural village and sneer at believers (Darcy) and superstition to their detriment. Yet Oddity does not feel like a pastiche. Instead, McCarthy takes each of these elements and uses them as a hue in his distinctive palette of horror. He blends them beautifully and harrowingly, pulling us in with their mystique and making us howl with their darkest revelations. 


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Watching Oddity, I briefly worried there's no way the movie could maintain this ferocious momentum. It's not that the film is frantically paced, more that it strides. When McCarthy sets up a familiar beat, he knows you know what will come next. A woman alone in a big, spooky house will be attacked. A sister-in-law discouraged from dropping by absolutely will at a most inopportune time. And by moving to these beats so quickly, McCarthy leaves us no room to breathe or anticipate where the story will swerve next.

Other filmmakers might have us slog through a trilogy for all the story he weaves into one 98-minute film. Soon, the focus is not so much about who killed Dani, but how Darcy's quest for understanding will play out for anyone remotely involved. And the ending — I'm elated to report — is as sick as it is satisfying. Not just because of how this plot unravels, but also because of how McCarthy, after racing us around timelines and subgenres, takes his time to deliver a final beat that brings a major blow. 

In a word, Oddity is awesome. 

Oddity was reviewed out of its premiere at SXSW 2024.

TopicsFilmSXSW

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