Review by Rod
= Highest Rating
I come across an independently produced horror film from the
'80s heretofore unknown to me I hope desperately for the best.
"This might be good," I'll mumble to myself
even though I know the chances are slim. Surely if it were
any good I'd have read about it somewhere, right? But buoyed
by the lightening strike discovery of Evil
Dead on a video store shelf 20 years ago I cross my fingers
and push play. It's not often my optimism is rewarded but sometimes
I find a way to have fun with most dreadful of cinematic dregs.
The Oracle tells
the dull story of Jennifer (Caroline Capers Powers), who has
just moved into a new apartment with her husband Ray (Roger
Neil). She learns from the building's superintendent (Chris
Maria de Korna) that the previous tenant was a fortune-telling
old lady who simply disappeared months before. She accepts the
old lady's generic (uncopyrighted) Ouija board as a gift; at
a dinner party that night it spells out "Help me".
Soon the board is writing out messages about a rich man that
committed suicide, Jennifer is having visions of his death,
and the apartment is being torn about by poltergeists. Of course,
Ray thinks his wife is going nuts even after the super turns
up murdered and strange things keep happening. Meanwhile, there's
a fat bald guy (played by a woman!) strolling around the city
killing the occasional hooker. He and another no-goodnick were
hired to off the old man and after Jennifer starts checking
into the details of the "suicide", anyone still awake
will have the identity of the villain figured out the instant
they appear onscreen.
More properly called The Bore-acle,
this is as good a cure for insomnia as you're ever likely to
find. Miserably bad on almost every level, it almost makes me
doubt the old saying that no one ever sets out to make a bad
movie. Badly directed, badly acted, badly written and even badly
cast, it's nearly impossible to find any element that has its
intended effect. Halfway through I realized that there was no
hope of it being an enjoyable viewing experience and started
cataloging the few things (besides caffeine and the hat pin
I occasionally jabbed in my thigh) that kept me awake.
Almost every male character sports a big bushy mustache. This
causes them to be so indistinguishable from one another that
I actually thought the building super was one of the assassins.
This briefly made me think things were getting interesting,
but I was wrong.
2. Many of the performances
are hysterical. They seem to be stage actors pitching themselves
to the cheap seats so they come off as the right style for a
parody, but not a horror film.
3. The interior sets
are lit like a flat TV sitcom, destroying any chance of atmosphere
and making the cheesy high school play level FX look even worse
than they must.
4. The one laugh
out loud sequence that just has to be seen... The bald killer
dresses up as a woman to attend a New Years Eve party where
he can kill our heroine. She goes out on the balcony, is attacked,
but escapes and is then attacked again in the kitchen. This
very loud scene goes on with much thrashing about and broken
pottery while no one hears a thing in the next room!
This is so that everyone can continue to think Jennifer is going
crazy, but the whole thing plays like a Three Stooges out-take.
Any film that has a woman dressed as a man playing the main
heavy is fighting an uphill battle, I guess, but this one is
fraught with inept moments that are wonderfully amusing. Watching
she/he trying to be menacing while running with an ax or spouting
tough guy dialog is high comedy, as is the character's oozing
nothing here to recommend to anyone that isn't a masochist or
(like me) can't resist the genre. This sucker might prove to
be fun viewing with friends if you have enough beer on hand...
but it would need to be a lot of beer. And I pity the
poor designated driver.
Show has brought this cinematic snooze to DVD with a lot of misplaced
affection. The film is presented fullframe and other than the
occasional dead space at the top, this is fine. I'm sure a slight
matte would have been more accurate but nothing creeps into the
frame to indicate its necessity. The image is good with solid
colors but is a little soft which I'm sure comes from using the
cheapest film stock available. The soundtrack is listed as 2.0
and is serviceable.
On the extras front
Shriek Show have done themselves proud with an interview and a
fascinating full-length audio commentary track featuring the movie's
director, Roberta Findlay. The interview is 28 minutes long and
pretty entertaining. A friend commented that Findlay looks more
like a waitress in an all-night diner than a filmmaker, but with
credits stretching back to the 1960s —
as well as the legendary Snuff
she's the real deal. Her first
statement in the interview is that she hates horror movies, which
explains quite a lot, as do the many tales of the crew's on-set
alcoholic excesses. Findlay comes off as a slightly cranky but
affable person willing to talk about her work with complete candor.
She knows this film is crap, but "so what". She
has some good stories to tell and on the commentary track she
really opens up, with plenty of asides about most everyone in
the cast and crew. A few times Ms. Findlay edits herself out of
fear of a libel suit but usually she just lets fly. I didn't think
anything could make a second viewing of The
Oracle bearable but this commentary is fun. I guess it's
true that more interesting things happen behind the camera than
in front of it.
The extras also include
the theatrical trailer, TV spots, a photo gallery and 4 trailers
for other Shriek Show releases. A very good package for a very
bad film. 4/15/05