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Keep your hand to yourself! Same for that mustache!
Our next review is for the 1985 horror film The Oracle, directed by Roberta Findlay. Findlay (and her husband, Michael) built a reputation by producing and directing a string of porno and softcore flicks during the 70’s and early 80’s before focusing primarily on horror flicks. Other horror films directed by Findlay include Blood Sisters (1987), Prime Evil (1988), & Lurkers (1988). This career move was surely for monetary reasons only as Findlay has gone on record as saying that she does not like horror films and that she believes that Rosemary’s Baby is the only good horror film ever made. While there was nothing wrong with capitalizing on the growing horror movie boom of the early/mid 80’s, her lack of enthusiasm and passion shine through in this film. Sadly, that is only one of two things that “shine” in this flick.
As our film opens, we find an old fortune teller/medium at her table using her tool of divination, a stone hand holding a feather pen. As she places her fingers on the hand, it slides around on a sheet of paper writing messages with its quill. Think of it as the planchette from a Ouija board, which is what the hand would have been had someone been willing to pay the licensing fees required to use an actual Ouija board in a movie. Parker Brothers don’t give that shit out for free. The hand spells out the word “murder”, but the old woman pronounces it “mordor”. It would appear that the first murder of our film has the English language as its victim. A murder that I commit on a weekly basis. You’re welcome.
The old psychic dies. Of course, the film doesn’t bother to show or tell us this. No, it’s just happy giving us a scene of 2 men loading up her belongings into a large chest. With background music that is far too intense and foreboding for this scene, the guys move the chest approximately 3 feet and put it down. I guess these guys knew about some nexus of realities that happened to be located in this exact spot because the chest then suddenly appears in a darkened basement.
A rather cute, young woman is drawn to the chest. Inside she finds the Oracle, it’s box emitting a greenish-blue glow. This is Jennifer, the film’s main character. Introductions weren’t really important to the director here. Neither was making it clear what is going on. As Jennifer stares enchanted at the hand, one of the men seen moving the chest in the last scene startles her by placing his hand on her shoulder. This is Pappas, and despite the fact that he is dressed like a lion tamer, he is actually the building’s superintendent. Pappas tells Jennifer that these are items left behind by the old psychic when she died. As Jennifer and her husband have just moved into that same apartment, Pappas tells her to take the box containing the hand.
In the next scene, we see a large man in a jacket and beanie picking up a very, shall we say “affordable” looking hooker. We’re talking “wet paper bag in the rain” worn out here. Johnny Bench’s catcher mitt “worn out”. They head to a hotel room. The hooker reaches into the man’s pants and immediate starts to apologize. I guess her apologies weren’t good enough because the man then uses a switch blade to slice the prostitute from chin to navel. Just for good measure he also stabs her a few times. He then washes up, takes back his $20 from the hooker’s purse, and leaves. In the background, the dead hooker has managed to spread her legs so that the camera can take one last extended voyeuristic shot of her crotch.
This is where we take a moment to talk about our movie’s killer. The character was originally supposed to be a man, but the role was offered to a rather manly looking woman. (No offense, ma’am.) For whatever reason it was decided to make this character a butch transvestite. The fact that the character is a transvestite doesn’t factor into the film at all other than in the one aforementioned scene. The actress playing this role provides the only decent acting job in the movie. However, the choice to modulate her voice to make her sound “more manly” only serves to make her dialog indistinguishable. It’s also my main reason for confusion in the casting/character direction choice.
Jennifer throws a house-warming dinner at her new apartment. Another married couple attend, and this is also where we finally meet Jennifer’s husband. I do not know what this character’s name is. I do not care what this character’s name is. For the purposes of this review, we will refer to him as “Dick”. For post-dinner “fun”, Jennifer decides to show off the Oracle. Her friends don’t believe in the supernatural or in the power of the Oracle and quickly laugh it off as folly, but Jennifer is determined to prove that it works. The hand then spells out the words “help me”, but everyone else just believes that Jennifer subconsciously made the words herself as a cry for attention. Later that evening, after their friends have gone home, Dick berates Jennifer for her immaturity in believing that the spirit world exists and for believing that the hand has any power. Like most men (or at least me), this immaturity is not enough of a deterrent to stop him from trying to talk Jennifer into…. ahem… “giving up the goods”. And Jennifer is about to give in. That is, until Dick makes the comment that her “putting out” will mean that she’s finally putting a stop to her acting “like a kid”. Smooth move, Dick!
That night, Jennifer is awoken by a scratching sound coming from the living room, now awash in the same aqua light that we saw in the basement earlier. She finds the Oracle writing of its own accord, a name and phone number scrawled on the paper beneath. This starts Jennifer to screaming, which causes Dick to wake up. Jennifer tells him what she has just seen and asks Dick “what it means”. Dick, overly concerned prick that he is, answers with “it means you woke me up”.
The next day, Jennifer and her friend call the phone number given by the Oracle. When they ask for the person whose name she was given, they are informed by the man’s wife that the gentlemen is dead, an apparent suicide. As we will soon find out, this man was actually murdered. Now scared of the Oracle and it’s power, Jennifer attempts to throw away the hand and it’s box. Like a jilted lover, the hand then psychically trashes her apartment. Lights flicker, paintings fall off walls, and books fly from their shelves. Dick returns home from work while this is happening, but the Oracle moves a cabinet against the door and will not let him enter. When the Oracle finally stops its little temper tantrum, Dick enters the apartment and begins to accuse Jennifer of being the one who wrecked the place. Dick then takes the box with the planchette down the hall to toss into the incinerator. As he is about to open the door, Pappas walks out. He agrees to take the box off his hands.
Pappas returns to his workroom and attempts to use the Oracle to obtain the next day’s winning lottery numbers. When it does not work for him, he begins to swear at it and even spits on it. As he walks away to get a beer from his fridge and to turn on his TV, the box opens up. Out crawls what can only be described as a booger with tentacles. More boog-boys crawl from the box and begin to attack Pappas. He grabs his knife and starts stabbing at the creatures. We then see shots of Pappas, free of creatures, actually stabbing himself. It’s very unclear as to whether these are hallucinations or if people can not actually see these critters. You will almost wish that you couldn’t see them as they are very cheap looking. That said, the bloody scenes of Pappas stabbing himself are done well enough.
After a quick round of some very boring sex, Jennifer starts having nightmares caused by the Oracle. I wish there was something positive to say here, but the scares are on the same level as a low-end, local Jaycee’s spook house. Still unsympathetic to his wife’s dwindling sanity, Dick wakes her up long enough to tell her to “get a grip”. Even after some sweet, sweet lovin’, Dick is still a grumpy ol’ bag of douche. The following morning, his wife makes him breakfast. Instead of saying “thank you”, his only comments are to bark at her to put his plate on the table a little more gently and to tell her (not “ask” her) to “fetch” him another cup of coffee. She obliges. As she is getting the coffee, his cup slides itself off of the table and breaks on the kitchen floor. He feels the need once again to be an asshole and snaps at her to be more careful. I guess it means nothing to him that his wife was standing 10 ft from the table when it happened, but as she doesn’t say anything about it and doesn’t try to defend herself, I can only feel a certain level of “sorry” for her. Dick gets up and leaves for work. Jen picks up the shattered cup and, as she stands up from doing so, she finds that the box has manged to return to her table.
After visions of the murder, Jennifer contacts the dead man’s wife and tells her what she “saw” of that night. This turns out to be a huge mistake as we soon find out that the wife was in on the murder. The wife and the dead man’s business partner hired the transvestite to kill the old man. Now that Jennifer has seen them in her visions, the assassin is then hired to kill Jennifer before she can talk. The rest of the film focuses on the attempt’s to kill Jennifer and also with the spirit occupying the Oracle’s plan for vengeance.
Despite bad acting, dime-store special effects, massive plot holes, and more mustaches than a 1970’s porno nightmare, the ultimate downfall of The Oracle is that it’s just insanely boring. Some movies are “fun” bad, meaning that there is at least something of interest or humor that can be found in its ineptitude. Not here. There is nothing humorous. There is no charm. It’s just boring. There is one nice face-melting scene near the end, but it is far “too little, too late” to make this a pleasurable viewing experience.
As I said earlier, Findlay is not a fan of horror movies and it really shows here. It’s very obvious that there is not even an ounce of passion put into this. There is even a sense that the director was just looking for a finished product and nothing more. Yet somehow, this movie still managed to get theatrical release. Oh, the 80’s. When you could get anything into a theater.
Simply put, avoid The Oracle.