The Oskars Fantasy (Philippines, 2022)
While I have been focusing more this year on films I’d been looking forward, I’m still popping a few random selections into the mix. I stumbled across The Oskars Fantasy while browsing Netflix, and the premise appealed to me. Also, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever seen a horror film from the Philippines before. So here we go.
The Oskars Fantasy is currently available on Netflix in the UK.
After being forced to work with his boss’s talentless son once too often, producer Bobby B and his associate Odessa leave their high-flying studio jobs and set out as independent filmmakers. While drinking at a bar, Bobby encounters DMZ, his old friend from film school, who has spent years working on a script drawn from local folklore. After reading the script, Bobby decides this project will be his path to becoming the first filmmaker from the Philippines to win an Academy Award.
Relocating to DMZ’s family home on the scenic island of Catanduanes, Bobby learns that DMZ’s grandmother is a wise woman whose stories inspired the script. While the old woman seems to be suffering from dementia, she insists that her fantastical tales of magic and monsters are all true.
When Bobby goes seeking the old woman’s former lover, a shaman, he enters a hidden world filled with monsters out of legend. Learning that these creatures have forsworn eating human flesh, Bobby offers them a shot at stardom.
Will Bobby save a fortune on special effects by using real monsters in his film? If these monsters don’t eat people, why do members of the film crew keep disappearing? And will Bobby and DMZ achieve their lifelong dream of winning an Oscar?
Although it’s clear that The Oskars Fantasy is not a big-budget production, it’s really quite beautifully made. The locations offer plenty of visual appeal, with some more striking ones serving nicely for Bobby’s trips into the netherworld. The only place this spectacle fails, sadly, is with the monsters themselves.
There is an irony about having unconvincing monster effects in a film about using real monsters instead of special effects. It undercuts the very illusion we are being sold on. While the makeup effects and costumes are fine, the CGI when Gina sprouts wings and for the forest troll’s monstrous head are simply awful. Ordinarily, I’d have no problem looking past such shortcomings, but they kept working against the reality in which the film was asking me to believe.
The monsters themselves are a lot of fun, both in design and as characters. Despite the shortcomings in their execution, I kind of wish we’d spent more time with them. I don’t really know anything about Filipino folklore, so I can’t attest to the accuracy here, but a few stirred up old memories of stories I’d heard or read. Bangs was a particular highlight — a giant snake/leech thing, living in an oddly ambulatory metal urn.
There is a lot I enjoyed about The Oskars Fantasy and a lot I really did not. It’s one of the most wildly inconsistent films I’ve seen for a while. The main flaw is that too many of the jokes fall flat, which is a major problem for a film that strives so hard for comedy. It’s not that The Oskars Fantasy never made me laugh, just that too many gags merely made me wince. There is a juvenile naughtiness here that wouldn’t be out of place in a 1970s Benny Hill skit, and is not helped by the lazy stereotypes we see in some of the supporting characters.
Mercifully, the worst of this is restricted to the second act, when the location shoot gets underway. The narrative loses steam here as it introduces a whole raft of new, wacky characters and makes cheap jokes at their expense. The final act does largely turn this around, giving us a lively romp through the forest, pursued by monsters. And the resolution — a bizarre, high-stakes battle over creative differences — is so much fun that I was glad I’d stuck around.
On the whole, I’d say that the enjoyable parts of The Oskars Fantasy outweigh its flaws. Its engaging premise and delightful protagonists carried me over the worst of the bumps. If the humour had been a bit less crass, this could have been something really special.
The October Horror Movie Challenge
Please do join in and share your own thoughts with us about this or any other films as the month goes on. You can usually find us on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Discord, or lurking in the dark corners of your home.
If you would like to play along at home, my provisional selections are:
- Dark August (USA, 1976)
- Huesera: The Bone Woman (Mexico/Peru, 2022)
- The Banishing (UK, 2020)
- Brooklyn 45 (USA, 2023)
- Bloody Muscle Bodybuilder in Hell (Japan, 1995)
- Pyewacket (Canada, 2017)
- Grave Robbers (Mexico, 1989)
- You Might Be The Killer (USA, 2018)
- No One Will Save You (USA, 2023)
- The Sect (Italy, 1991)
- Last Night in Soho (UK, 2021)
- Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil (Spain, 2017)
- 47 Metres Down (UK/USA, 2017)
- The Oskars Fantasy (Philippines, 2022)
- In the Earth (UK, 2021)
- Something in the Dirt (USA, 2022)
- Blood Flower (Malaysia, 2023)
- Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (Canada, 1987)
- Older Gods (UK, 2023)
- Come to Daddy (New Zealand, 2020)
- Shrew’s Nest (Spain, 2014)
- Totally Killer (USA, 2023)
- The Premonition (USA, 1976)
- Murder Me, Monster (Argentina, 2018)
- The Gruesome Twosome (USA, 1967)
- Talk to Me (Australia, 2023)
- Gaia (South Africa, 2021)
- Demon (Poland, 2015)
- Juju Stories (Nigeria, 2022)
- El Conde (Chile, 2023)
- The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (Hong Kong/UK, 1974)
A Final Note
If you have been enticed here by these posts, please do look around at some of our other film reviews. We also have a podcast, called The Good Friends of Jackson Elias, which occasionally covers horror films. If this appeals, you might want to check out some of the following episodes.
- The Night House
- The Changeling
- The Endless
- Our favourite Cthulhu Mythos media
- The Fly
- A Dark Song
- The Thing
- The Ritual
- The Wicker Man
- The Stone Tape
- Event Horizon
- The Witch
- INLAND EMPIRE
- Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions
- Maléfique and The Ninth Gate
- Re-Animator and From Beyond
- Repulsion and The Babdook
- Man Bites Dog, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and S&man
- A selection of weird films
- David Cronenberg
- The films that scared us most
If you dig through the archives, you will also find episodes about a wide variety of horror stories and games. Happy nightmares!