Tarot (2024)

Tarot Review


When some buddies recklessly break the cardinal rule of Tarot readings, an unspeakable evil is unleashed from within the cursed cards. As they confront their destinies one by one, they find themselves in a race against time.

Has horror run out of steam as a genre? Mainstream horror movies have delivered nothing this year except for overlong jumpscare festivals like Abigail. Even The First Omen played like a ripoff of much better movies (Zulawski’s Possession, specifically) while drowning the screen in jumpscares every second. And I’ll say it again: there’s nothing interesting or cinematically exciting about loud noises and a slightly creepy face popping on the screen for two seconds. Sure, it raises your heart rate, but once you see it coming, it’s hard to connect with anything else that happens on screen.

What do you know? Just in time to kick off summer-movie season alongside David Leitch’s The Fall Guy is Tarot by Spenser Cohen & Anna Halberg, another jumpsare festival at the multiplexes right now. The fact that this movie didn’t screen for critics says a lot about its quality; then again, many high-profile movies that ended up getting good reviews also never screened here (either they just skipped our market or they really were as big a disaster as the studio thought). It’s not the worst movie ever made; it is one of the most pointless studio pictures you’ll waste your time on this year.

Who is this movie for? Who would actually enjoy this? A deadly tarot deck sounds like a recipe for something great each main character gets stalked by an astrologer one by one Final Destination-style at least enjoyable in the horror landscape. But right out of gate, the film makes two cardinal errors that ensure it will never recover heading towards its finish line.

Mistake #1: The movie is PG-13. There are movies where this rating is acceptable, but a Tarot card of doom killing off protagonists through one gratuitous setpiece after another demands a full-fledged hard-R rating. Cohen and Halberg repeatedly cut away from the violence every time something interesting happens, such as a scene set inside a ‘Magician’s Box.’ Paige (Avantika) gets kidnapped by a demonic magician and stuck inside a box as the magician prepares his “trick” of sawing her in half. It’s an extremely violent moment, yes — but just as his saw is entering the box, the movie cuts completely out of it, moves on to another scene and alludes to the audience that something bad has happened here.

This kills all pacing and visual style in the film, although it is more thought-evoking than expected. There are some decent compositions here, particularly during a bravura setpiece inside a commuter train the closest we’ll get to an R-rated kill where shadows are used effectively as Lucas (Wolfgang Novogratz) sees a vision of the astrologer closing in. But not every major scene pops off the screen, because none of the shots go deep enough in their imagery, whether with undercooked creatures or lackluster gore.

Mistake #2: The protagonists that audiences spend time with are pitifully underdeveloped and make dumb decisions that no sane human being would ever do if stuck in their situation. Literally. Anyone who’s seen a horror movie knows how shortsighted most protagonists are, but Tarot takes it to another level. For example, Haley (Harriet Slater), who has the ability to read Tarot cards, tells Madeline (Humberly González) she will want to run away from her troubles but should resist when given the opportunity. When she’s stalked by the astrologer, a stick figure image of her being hanged is drawn on a foggy car window, with RUN scrawled at the bottom.

Of course, intelligent audience members know that’s when she resists and does not run. Oh wait no this is a horror movie; she gets out of the car and (predictably) runs somewhere she probably didn’t want to go. The film is littered with character decisions that completely disregard rationality or logic so they can lead into setpieces filled with cheap jumpscares and gotcha! moments instead of developing its characters or going beyond faux-thrills that plague seemingly every mainstream horror movie made these days devoid of any creativity or soul.

Yes low-budget horror movies usually make a quick buck in cinemas which is why we get plenty of stuff like Tarot. But we as a society deserve far better than this. There wasn’t a single person who reacted strongly to any of the film’s scenes in my audience (other than a joke involving Jacob Batalon’s character that was the only time its audience was vibing with the film), and the muted reactions after the credits roll spoke volumes. Audiences want original horror. They want to be scared shitless by something new, images that stick with you so long after the credits have rolled that you can’t sleep at night.

While Tarot is an adaptation of Nicholas Adams’ Horrorscope, its onscreen treatment may definitely feel unique. However, both Cohen and Halberg take such unimaginatively inept direction from the get-go that no actor, no matter how talented or skillful they may be (Olwen Fouéré is particularly wasted here), can save it. As an audience member you can play with the deck and perpetuate more listless unfulfilling films like these, or choose not to touch it and ensure horror movies actually have something of value to bring to society again. I’d choose the latter, but since most characters in this film make shortsighted decisions, a sequel will probably be announced in a few days from now anyways.

Watch Tarot For Free On Gomovies.

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