The name "Roberta Findlay" will usually draw up three distinct genres when it is uttered among fan circles: roughies, porno and horror. Three of the most loathed film genres were all well-frequented by Findlay during her 25-year stint as a director and cinematographer in New York City. However, Findlay admits in the disc's extras that she despises horror films and thinks the only good one she's ever seen was ROSEMARY'S BABY. The influence is obvious throughout THE ORACLE, which also is very reminiscent of THE SENTINEL and THE TENANT, two other apartment-bound supernatural horrors of the 1970s. Unfortunately, with little passion for the genre, Findlay can't possibly hope to compare to those films and the result is a pretty boring little shocker which surprisingly saw a theatrical release back in 1985. Shot back-to-back with the much superior TENEMENT (Roberta's non-porno masterpiece), Findlay's schlock classic hits DVD courtesy of Shriek Show and is a toss-up for fans of Findlay and horror films in general.
After an elderly psychic dies in her apartment, a happily married couple, Jennifer and Ray, move in and discover her left-over Ouija board (except Findlay couldn't get the rights so it's a huge blue hand with a pen that writes on blank sheets of paper!). Jennifer is contacted through "The Oracle" by a dead man who was murdered by his gold-digging wife and her henchmen. The spirit of the murder victim continues to haunt her, destroying the apartment and giving her bad dreams, until she finally realizes the only way to get rid of him is to solve his murder.
Jam-packed with bad performances, goofy attempts at spook horror, lousy gore effects and a lethargic pace, THE ORACLE is one of Findlay's least-enjoyable films. Sure, those elements may sound like a surefire good time to be had by bad film fanatics, but the lack of passion behind them. Most of the film is a soap opera with Jennifer and Ray's marriage falling apart because he thinks she's crazy. It's better than Findlay's BLOOD SISTERS, but that ain't saying much. There is some good photography throughout the film, typical of cinematographer Findlay, Argento-esque gel lighting schemes, and the great New York location work is also wonderful to see, especially during the opening scenes during Christmastime. There is more male beefcake in the film than female cheesecake, which is interesting, but there is no sex to keep pervs interested. The gore is infrequent, but there are some cheesy moments worth savoring: the building's superintendent imagines ridiculous little glob monsters all over him, so he stabs himself to death (!); a monster pulls the head off a guy who tries dumping the Oracle in the garbage chute; a mirror explodes sending shards of glass into the body of an assassin; and a nasty acid-to-the-face sequence. The best part of the film is the gender-bending foul-mouthed murderer/ess who gorily dispatches of a prostitute (the scene is very similar to another scenario in Bill Lustig's MANIAC) and pops a balloon Robert Walker-style in a city diner (which might be the same one featured in Martin Scorsese's AFTER HOURS!). The actress, Pam LaTesta, looks and acts like Pat Ast, just not as over-the-top!! In this 94-minute film, there are about 25-30 minutes of interesting material which will keep you glued to the screen. This is one of those films that makes the fast-forward button a gift from God. Use it, don't be afraid...
The fullscreen transfer seems to be the accurate framing for the film, much as Findlay's previous TENEMENT was presented on DVD. There are few moments of dirt or hairs on the print, and the colors are usually vibrant and good-looking. Considering the film was shot in the 80s on cheap film stock, it looks surprisingly good. The mono audio is unfortunately quite weak; you'll have to crank the volume to hear the dialogue.
Considering how bad the film really is, the extras sure have fun with director Roberta Findlay, contributing both a video interview and an audio commentary here! The video interview is quite lengthy, with Findlay discussing how terrible the film is, shooting at the black arts shop The Magickal Childe, casting Pam LaTesta as the killer, her hatred for the horror genre, her promotional dealings with Jack Daniels (her particular favorite brand of booze), stories about the special effects, working with the young ingénue lead actress, and lots of other info in this lengthy video piece. Unfortunately for her fans and followers, her send-off to the camera is a tirade AGAINST her fans! She calls them sick and crazy and admits to sicking the police on them! Wow! I imagine she's had some tough run-ins with fans of SNUFF and her roughies and porn epics, but times have changed, Roberta! We're not all sick! Surprisingly, during this monologue, she also talks about how she came into contact with her first film nuts when attending a film society with her late husband Michael (her first DVD discussion of him at all!).
The commentary is more classic Findlay with attitude. She is the kind of woman who tells it like it is, takes no prisoners, just a really ballsy woman. She knows THE ORACLE is a piece of trash and makes no qualms about it, which means lots of poking fun at the film amidst the endless anecdotes. She invites moderators Bill Hellfire and Richard York to take the real-life Oracle prop off her hands (!), points out that a horror clip on TV is from her adult film A WOMAN'S TORMENT and a stuffed armadillo is a souvenir from shooting SNUFF in Argentina (!!), gripes about having to beg the male lead to take his clothes off (he probably worried due to her porno past), reveals the writer was a convicted child molester (!!!), the list goes on! This is one of the most entertaining commentaries by a low-budget filmmaker ever and is definitely no holds barred. Now if she has such great memory of this little film, one has to suspect she has good memories of her roughies and porn days...
The extras continue with the original theatrical trailer (with an MPAA Approval message, to boot!) and a TV spot, a stills and photo gallery with lots of posed on-set snapshots and a magazine article on the special effects, and a gaggle of Shriek Show trailers (BLOOD SISTERS, TENEMENT, ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK, and a new one, CHOKING HAZARD, a Czech zombie film).
you will enjoy the film and the disc if you're already an established Roberta
Findlay fan. But for those uninitiated into her cheapo film world, this is not
a good introduction and horror fans who have heard of this one but never seen
it will bet let down. There's a reason it's so obscure, let's just say that.
It's about time that someone released Findlay's adult films, which were very
revealing windows into her personality, the woman herself. These horror films
really show her at her least creative peak, and it's no wonder why she retired
after lensing yet another horror film, LURKERS (which is actually surprisingly
creepy and well-made). For Findlay completists, this is a must but for anyone
else, you might want to rent first. (Casey
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