Oddity: The Haunted Wooden Mannequin Isn’t Even the Scariest Part of the Movie

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This article appears in the SXSW 2024 issue of Den of Geek magazine. Check out all of our SXSW coverage here.

“A revenge ghost story with elements of a monster movie” is how Irish helmer Damian McCarthy describes his latest chiller, which is set to bring “plenty of scares and a few a few laughs” to SXSW’s late-night line-up. A supernatural horror centered around spooky trinkets, Oddity follows a blind medium (You Are Not My Mother’s Carolyn Bracken) as she uncovers the truth behind her twin sister’s death with the help of a terrifying wooden mannequin. 

“She collects a lot of haunted items—she can pick up an object and tell you everything about it,” explains McCarthy, the writer/director of 2020’s psychological thriller Caveat and celebrated horror short He Dies at the End. Not only does one of these objects—the aforementioned “wooden man”—help her to catch her sister’s killer, but it enables her to exact her revenge, too.

“It’s a little bit of a whodunnit,” McCarthy continues, with the film featuring an ensemble cast that includes Bohemian Rhapsody’s Gwilym Lee. The title, he says, carries a double meaning: “The idea of ‘Oddity,’ it’s like those strange items you collect, but it’s also all these characters making up the story.”

Shot across four weeks in his native West Cork, Ireland, McCarthy says that Oddity “feels like my first proper film,” scaled up from Caveat, made with a vastly expanded crew and even featuring some carefully orchestrated stunts—it was a challenge the director relished, although he admits, “You’d be a little bit nervous because you’re watching this guy just throw himself off this thing.” 

At the heart of the film, though, are the oddities themselves, with plenty of interesting ornaments filling out the frames—McCarthy’s influences included “a lot of anthology stuff [and] old Twilight Zone episodes.”

“With the production designer [Lauren Kelly] and the props we collected or built, there was an emphasis on that and kind of just trying to populate the world with odd things,” he says. “[The main character] has an antique shop, and we just tried to find as many strange things as we could and to get that sense of, ‘Oh yeah, that thing there—there’s definitely a story behind that.’”

So, can we expect any Annabelle-style spin-offs in the works? Perhaps not—although eagle-eyed viewers might spot a few throwbacks to some of his earlier creations. “I wasn’t that forward-thinking,” McCarthy laughs. “A lot of films now seem to have a franchise [in mind] or are trying maybe a little bit too hard to link stuff. I think a subtle nod to things is great, but I do love a standalone horror film more, where by the end of it, you go, ‘OK, there’s going to be no sequel to this. That story feels told, and it’s done.’ But we’ll see.”

Above all, though, McCarthy is excited to finally be unleashing his oddity on the world—starting with his first trip to SXSW.

“Everyone says the audience is really kind of on your side; they’re going along as real genre fans,” he says. “Something about it has always seemed to appeal to me, so I’m excited!”

Oddity screens from March 8 at SXSW 2024. Here are some other spooky movies set to screen as part of SXSW 2024’s “Midnighter” run. You can find the full list, including dates, here:

Azrael

In what sounds like a sort of post-apocalyptic Apocalypto, Azreal introduces us to an Earth some years after a major catastrophe, in which a young woman, imprisoned by a cult of mute zealots and marked for sacrifice to appease an ancient evil that lurks in the surrounding wilderness, makes a savage bid for freedom. Directed by SXSW regular E.L. Katz (Cheap Thrills, Small Crimes), the film follows Samara Weaving’s (Ready or Not, Scream VI) eponymous hero as she barrels towards a “vicious, revenge-fueled showdown.” Is the fact that she’s named after the angel of death some kind of portent? Very probably.

Family

First-time writer/director Benjamin Finkel offers up some early ’00s-set horror with Family, in which a malevolent force is invited into the home of a struggling brood. Pushed to her limit by watching her ailing dad (The Thin Red Line’s Ben Chaplin) decline and her mother (Luther’s Ruth Wilson) consumed with caring for him, 11-year-old Johanna (newcomer Lucinda Lee Dawson Gray) puts a desperate call out into the universe for a good spirit to come and save them. What she actually gets, though, is something quite the opposite….

Hood Witch

This feature debut from rising star French writer/director Saïd Belktibia gives the black-market thriller a supernatural twist. The Extraction franchise’s Golshifteh Farahani stars as Nour, a woman making a living from smuggling exotic animals and illicit contraband for her city’s marabout mystics. In the pursuit of offering her son a better life, she designs and develops an app to connect the marabouts with their clients – but its initial success soon turns into a nightmare for Nour after one exorcism goes horribly wrong.

It’s What’s Inside

“A sci-fi thriller, with jokes” is how writer/director Greg Jardin pitched his feature debut when it premiered at Sundance back in January. It obviously worked, as It’s What’s Inside arrives at SXSW with a major new backer in Netflix. Joining the club of cinematic bachelor/bachelorette parties gone wrong, the film sees a pre-wedding get-together at a remote mansion descend into a nightmare after an estranged friend turns up with a mysterious briefcase. The high concept at the movie’s core is being kept under wraps, but expect chaos—and a body count—to ensue.

The post Oddity: The Haunted Wooden Mannequin Isn’t Even the Scariest Part of the Movie appeared first on Den of Geek.

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