‘Oddity’ SXSW 2024 Review: Damian McCarthy’s Latest Is Really Damn Scary


When I watched Damian McCarthy’s feature film debut Caveat, I was deeply impressed with his world-building and also incredibly unsettled with the rancid vibes he curated throughout. So it gives me great pleasure to share that with his newest film Oddity, which had its world premiere at the 2024 SXSW Film Festival, McCarthy crafts a scarier and even more realized world that had me jumping so hard I almost pulled muscle. Between McCarthy’s creeping story and Carolyn Bracken’s performances as twins sisters Darcy and Dani, Oddity is a bizarre nightmare of a film that while relying on familiar story beats, crafts a very scary movie that cuts you to the bone with every new twist and turn.

Oddity opens with Dani (Bracken) settling into the new home she purchased with her husband Ted (Gwilym Lee) in the British countryside. It’s the definition of a fixer-upper and Dani is staying in a yellow tent by the front door as they embark upon their renovation journey. Without electricity and barely any phone signal, Dani is capital-A Alone, which is, of course, the perfect setup for something horrific. Sure enough, a stranger named Olin Boole (Tadgh Murphy) knocks on the door to alert Dani that someone snuck into her house while she checked her car for her phone.

Protected by only a small halo of light, Dani glances off into the darkness as strange noises emanate from the shadows, trying to decide whether or not to trust this man. Eventually, he leaves to alert the police, once again leaving Dani alone with nothing but a flashlight. McCarthy quickly gets to the point as a masked stranger in a yellow poncho attacks Dani with a hammer, brutally murdering her in her new home.

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Flash forward about a year and we’re introduced to Darcy, Dani’s twin sister who looks like a British Lorraine Warren down to the frilly collars and pastel skirts. She inherited their mother’s oddities shop and also provides services as a medium (a much more lucrative endeavor). Did I mention that she’s also blind? It’s almost comic how much she falls in the horror medium stereotype, and yes something about her feels different. She may have the look, but as soon as Bracken opens her mouth, there’s something immediately disarming about Dani, as if she has only one foot left in this world. Brother-in-law Ted, who has already moved on and has a new live-in girlfriend, pays her a visit, awkwardly delivering a package and trying to politely keep Darcy from visiting the home where her twin was murdered. 

Luckily for Darcy, she doesn’t take no for an answer and a few weeks later, she appears at Ted’s doorstep with a trunk. She’s here to remember her sister on the anniversary of her death and perhaps do some investigating into the mystery surrounding her murder. While everyone thinks Olin murdered Dani, Darcy believes there’s something more sinister at hand. But conveniently for Ted, he has to work an overnight shift at the hospital and his girlfriend Yara must host the strange psychic.

As he leaves and the night progresses, Darcy unveils what’s hiding in the trunk: a human-sized wooden man, said to have been a gift to her mother by an actual witch. As the figure takes his place at the dining room table and the sun begins to set, Darcy begins to dive into the mystery of her sister’s death and prove it was more than just a random murder. 

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Darcy alone is a fascinating character, with McCarthy’s script and Lauren Kelly’s providing ample clues about a past full of supernatural close encounters. There’s never any sort of exposition dump explaining why Darcy is the way she is. Rather, it’s hiding in the details of her shop, her clothing, and the little intricacies of her behavior that make Darcy so fascinating. Bracken imbues her with a performative frailty that keeps people underestimating her. She’s sly and calculated, but still gentle in her approach, an unsettling combination especially when brought to life by Bracken. 

Bracken’s haunting demeanor only adds to the fascinating world McCarthy builds in just a few locations. While this isn’t a world that different from our own, between Darcy’s aesthetic and the hellish discoveries in the country house, something about Oddity feels liminal, like a film frozen at a certain time, except no one knows that time has stopped. Everything feels wrong and there’s never a moment to breathe as McCarthy delivers scare after scare, expanding upon the skills he demonstrated in Caveat.

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The biggest detractor is that the story beats are rather predictable, especially when it comes to a haunted house movie with a true crime element. However, because McCarthy’s execution is almost flawless and the scares never stop coming, that can easily be forgiven. It’s a perfect example of going back to basics but executing it to perfection to deliver just a classic ghost story. McCarthy strikes a balance between story and scares that keeps Oddity from ever becoming too much of another examination of grief we’ve seen ten times over. 

It may only be March but I’m willing to bet that Oddity is one of the scariest movies of the year. McCarthy took what he accomplished with Caveat and turned it up to eleven to deliver a good old-fashioned ghost story designed to keep you up at night. Every jumpscare is earned and well-crafted. From Bracken’s performance to Colm Hogan’s cinematography, everything about this movie is designed to scare you and to keep scaring you until the credits roll. This is a pitch-perfect tale about supernatural revenge, gross men, and freaky wooden men. Prepare to be scared.



It may only be March, but ‘Oddity’ is poised to be one of the scariest movies of the year.



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