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Terror Takes Center Stage in ODDITY Review

A woman begins to put her hands inside the mouth of a mannequin
Image courtesy of IFC FIlms

By Amylou Ahava

ODDITY emerges from the shadow of its predecessor, Caveat, with a world premiere at SXSW that definitely cemented director Damian McCarthy's reputation for crafting deeply unsettling horror. This film is a chilling exploration of fear and the unknown, and it blends psychological horror and supernatural suspense to create a scream-out-loud experience.

At its core, ODDITY revolves around a life-sized wooden mannequin that becomes a focal point for terror. The mannequin (with its eerie appearance and unpredictable behavior) taps into our deepest fears of the unknown, making it a genuinely terrifying presence on screen. So, if you're looking for a film that will leave you on edge and at least a little bit afraid of the dark, let ODDITY tuck you into bed tonight.

The film begins with the gruesome murder of Dani Timmis (Carolyn Bracken), who is the wife of physician Ted Timmis (Gwilym Lee), at their isolated country residence in Ireland. A year after her death, Ted is still haunted by the grisly home invasion murder attributed to his former mental patient, Olin Boole (Tadhg Murphy). On the anniversary of Dani's murder, her blind twin sister, Darcy (also played by Bracken), unexpectedly arrives at Ted's house with a mysterious gift: a life-sized wooden mannequin. This mannequin becomes the film's focal point and serves as a conduit for supernatural terror. As Ted grapples with Darcy's psychic abilities and the unsettling presence of the mannequin, strange occurrences start happening in the house, which makes it seem something in the past is not entirely dead. As the tension mounts, ODDITY delves into themes of fear, grief, and the hidden secrets that occurred within the house.

The mannequin (known as Wooden Man) definitely steals the show. It is a terrifying presence in ODDITY due to its uncanny resemblance to a human figure and its perpetually screaming face. The fear of dolls and mannequins (known as automatonphobia) stems from their human-like features combined with their lifeless and immobile nature, creating a heavy sense of unease and eeriness. Wooden Man embodies all of these fears with its grotesque appearance and how it appears to be in unending agony. Its screaming face is frozen in a twisted expression (which might tempt some people to put their hand in its mouth), adding a disturbing layer of interaction that blurs the line between reality and fiction. The mannequin's presence in the film serves to heighten the sense of dread and terror, as its unsettling appearance and mysterious behavior become a focal point for the characters' fears and the audience's nightmares.

Furthermore, director Damian McCarthy knows how to use darkness and light to give us the heebie-jeebies. The fear of the dark is a primal thing, and McCarthy takes full advantage of that by plunging us into shadowy, cramped spaces where anything could lurk. But it's not just the dark that's scary; it's also how he uses light in those dark places. The camera work is vital here, as sudden light flashes can be just as terrifying as the darkness itself. These quick bursts of light show us eerie glimpses of things we’d honestly rather not see (such as the mannequin), which makes us dread what might be lurking just out of sight. The contrast between light and dark keeps audiences on the edge, as we never know what spooky thing might be revealed next.

While Wooden Man steals the show, the more human cast also provides some very memorable performances that anchor the film's chilling narrative. Bracken's portrayal of both Dani and Darcy is a highlight and showcases her versatility and ability to convey complex emotions. As Dani, she exudes warmth and vulnerability, making her character's tragic fate even more heartbreaking. As Darcy, Bracken brings a sense of mystery and depth, effectively portraying the character's unique psychic abilities and inner turmoil.

As her counterpart, Lee impresses as Ted Timmis as he captures his character's grief and guilt with a raw intensity that is both haunting and compelling. And even Caroline Menton who plays Yana (Ted's new girlfriend) helps us through the dark and lets us see what secrets hide in the shadows. She infuses the character with a sense of strength and resilience as she navigates the escalating horrors around her. Overall, the chemistry between these three actors is intense, adding depth and authenticity to their interactions and enhancing the film's overall impact. 

ODDITY is poised to become one of the standout horror films of the year and will leave a lasting impression on audiences. Its unique blend of psychological terror, supernatural elements, and eerie atmosphere sets it apart from a lot of recent horror films. I am glad I got to watch the film in a theater (surrounded by fellow horror fans), as it helped enhance the experience and amplified the fear and suspense.

But honestly, watching it alone at home (in the dark) might be too intense for some viewers, as the film's chilling moments are best enjoyed with the safety of a group. ODDITY’s impact also extends beyond the screen, as The Wooden Man's image will eventually make its way into shops, horror conventions, and even our nightmares.


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