Terror Tuesday Report: The Oracle

Posted by Brian Salisbury - March 2nd 2011 @ 9:28 pm

The Film

A young woman and her husband move into their dream apartment for far less than they thought it would cost; suspiciously so. Turns out the source of the bargain is the mysterious death of the old lady who formerly resided in the apartment. She managed to vanish into thin air while playing a bizarre board game that allows her to communicate with the dead. The game, which finds its way into the new tenant’s possession begins to reach out to her and she becomes convinced it is the key to solving a murder. Unfortunately, in its fervor to persuade her to solve this murder the game gleefully knocks off every one around her.

The Oracle is profoundly bad. That is not to say that it fails in quite the spectacular fashion as something like Boardinghouse or Night Train to Terror. The Oracle manages a certain level of technical cohesiveness which automatically elevates far above those two cinematic abortions, but it is also stale as month-old bread. It takes itself far too seriously thereby defusing any possibility for the audience to glean entertainment value from this dry yarn. It’s not quite bad enough to be fun while nowhere near good enough to be appreciated; existing on a nebulous middle plain.

Director Roberta Findlay, for all her desperate flailing toward legitimacy, lets her porn roots peek through in The Oracle. The unnecessary love scene is soft-lit and pointlessly erotic given the fact that type of movie she’s professing to make. There is also an unhealthy prevalence of scummy mustaches to serve as a furry reminder of Findlay’s earlier work. When she’s not falling back on what she knows, Findlay steals from far better films. The opening interactions between the mad “man” and the prostitute–all the way up to her grisly demise–are wholesale stolen from William Lustig’s seminal Maniac. Just lousy directing effort overall.

What kills me about The Oracle is that its dances this strange two-step of self-detriment. For every ounce of good will it instills in the audience, it immediately throws them a big, stinky curve to remind them of how unsatisfying it is. The gore effects are fantastic, if a bit on the amateur side, so therefore one reasons that no film with the tenacity to feature an extended scene of a man stabbing himself to death is going to land on the boring side of the fence. But then we get long sequences of newspaper being tossed at the actress who flops around on the floor and forgets how to walk in order that we understand…that there is a ghost in the house? For every shot of the surprisingly creepy zombie doll, we get a mass murderer who mumbles so incoherently that major plot points are missed. And for every excellent face melting, we are treated to the serial killer who misses her victim at close range and gets her axe stuck…in a cardboard box. By the the midpoint, The Oracle completely wears out its welcome.

I do find it funny that they couldn’t get the rights to use the Ouija board in the film so the K-Mart knockoff is a tablet of paper, blue, porcelain hand, and a quill. And why does this woman’s husband think she’s crazy when she tells him someone is trying to kill her? They live in New Jersey! Everyone is trying to kill everyone! Oh, and just a real nice explanation of the fate or whereabouts of the old lady at the beginning. So why didn’t our younger heroine disappear at the end?

The Reaction

I can fully admit that sometimes my evaluation of the film featured at Terror Tuesday may not be in line with the audience, but this night seemed to reinforce my displeasure with The Oracle more than refute it. Every once in a while a pocket of viewers would laugh heartily, but this died off into silence soon enough. It was so quiet at one point that I began to notice how clearly I could hear the servers talking as they brought out the checks. These are the same people who wait on this crowd week in and week out without so much as an audible peep so I knew it was not a fault on their part. It really was just the painful doldrums of communal boredom.

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