‘Tarot’ Review: Spine-Snapping Melodrama Does Haunted Party Games Proud SuperNayr

A Pisces, a Taurus, a Capricorn, a Leo, a Virgo, and an Aquarius walk into a rented mansion for their Libra friend’s birthday party. The seven college kids soon run out of booze, go poking around in places they shouldn’t, and summon a fate worse than death when they find a mysterious deck of cards harboring a hidden evil. Title card: “Tarot.” All signs… point to yikes.

Written and directed by Spenser Cohen and Anna Halberg, Screen Gems’ latest scary movie is willfully ridiculous. It’s also the most original take on the haunted party game since last year’s well-loved “Talk to Me” with its own franchising potential as a supernatural series. If open-minded audiences buy into this transparently trendy gimmick and its melodramatic narrative execution, what feels like a spiritual “Final Destination” spinoff — told by way of an Urban Outfitters’ small gifts display — could very well form the basis for a handful of fun genre films. At the very least, this one should catch the attention of queer horror movie clubs where discussions of “the stars” is rarely far off.

'Deadpool & Wolverine', Hugh Jackman, Ryan Reynolds
'THE IDEA OF YOU', from left: Nicholas Galitzine, Anne Hathaway, 2024. ph: Alisha Wetherill /©Amazon Prime /Courtesy Everett Collection
TAROT, tarot cards, 2024. © Screen Gems / courtesy Everett Collection
‘Tarot’©Screen Gems/Courtesy Everett Collection

With an infinite number of potential victim-killer combinations, “Tarot” is designed to let audiences talk about themselves in the same vein as horror video games like “Until Dawn” or The Dark Pictures Anthology. In a lengthy introduction sequence explaining how the astrological calendar shaped these characters’ personalities, destinies are drawn and cross-checked against the Zodiac chart. Simultaneously, the soothsaying Haley (Harriet Slater) and her pals acknowledge an unspoken rule they’ve just broken. When engaging in the ancient art of divination via tarot (“It’s tar-oh, not tar-it!”), you should never use another fortune teller’s cards. That’s particularly important if you don’t know the origins of the stranger’s deck.

The set Haley finds, practically labeled INCITING INCIDENT, is covered in black, white, and red illustrations depicting creatures that look like inbred relatives of The Babadook. A heavy emphasis is put on character choice from the start of “Tarot,” and you’d think these undergraduate doofuses could have had the foresight to just play flip cup instead. But with more than your standard superstition at play — as revealed through a once-again awesome Olwen Fouéré in another mysterious role akin to her part in “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 9” — these star-crossed meat sacks never could have predicted the true nature of the curse they were maybe always doomed to share.

TAROT, Harriet Slater, 2024. © Screen Gems / courtesy Everett Collection
Harriet Slater in ‘Tarot’©Screen Gems/Courtesy Everett Collection

The fates soon send Haley, her ex-boyfriend Grant (Adain Bradley), birthday girl Elise (Larsen Thompson), Elise’s girlfriend Paige (Avantika), goofball Paxton (Jacob Batal), and will-they-won’t-they friends Madeline (Humberly González) and Lucas (Wolfgang Novogratz) back to school in Boston. Unaware and spectacularly screwed, they’ll spend the next hour-plus fleeing mean-spirited monsters as Haley’s predictions take on literal, lethal new meaning. Think campy nonsense like the live-action adaptation of “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” or Dan Gilroy’s widely maligned “Velvet Buzzsaw.” If that goofy stuff isn’t up your astrological alley, don’t deal in; but if you’ve got a good humor and patience, don’t miss out on a chance to see a slasher that earnestly hinges on Co-Star.

Tossing away observational one-liners about horoscopes like excerpts from an old BuzzFeed quiz, the “Tarot” characters dance on the knife’s edge of likability. Batal in particular struggles with a “fool” casting that makes his “Spider-Man” work look like luck, and some of the twenty-somethings dialogue (“I don’t want to be a gossip, but…”) feels written by aliens. Still, there’s a quiet courage worthy appreciating in a script that so steadfastly commits to its own cosmic bit.

For plenty of horror fans, “Tarot” is prematurely irritating in conceit: a clicky internet hook that could have had the same pre-baked studio packaging that gave us duds like Blumhouse’s “Truth or Dare.” And yet, Cohen and Halberg manage an admirable faith in their own movie — delivering consistently delightful kills in a soapy story that doesn’t seem insecure until the very end.

Grade: B

Sony Pictures released “Tarot” in theaters on May 3.

Source link

Leave a Comment