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cards on the table – this flimsy horror sucks

May 8th, 2024

A cast of teenagers get picked off one by one in this cursed card game horror from co-directors Spenser Cohen and Anna Halberg, who previously collaborated on the Classified podcast series. Unfortunately, Tarot is exactly as derivative as its uninspired synopsis suggests.

In fairness, Cohen and Halberg (who also co-wrote the script) get things moving pretty quickly. A group of college students find a hand-painted deck of Tarot cards while renting a large house in the Catskills and astrology-savvy Haley (Harriet Slater) gives each of her friends a reading. However, shortly afterwards, one of their number meets a grisly end in a manner that echoes the words Haley used in her horoscope predictions.

When another member of the group dies in similar circumstances, the friends work out that the cards are somehow to blame, discovering their history after meeting an occult expert (Olwen Fouéré) they find on the internet. With the clock ticking and their numbers dwindling, they have to find a way to break the curse before meeting their seemingly pre-ordained fates.

The plot is essentially a direct rip-off of the Final Destination series, but without either the wit or the imagination of those movies. There is potential for visual invention in the basic set-up of Tarot – the teens are pursued by a demon that shape-shifts into the images on the cards – but the film completely ignores that idea, so that every time the demon appears, all you see is a quick flash of pointy teeth in the darkness and not much else.

‘Tarot’ is a card game caper filled with jump scares. CREDIT: Sony Pictures

On top of that, the already contrived script struggles to match the deaths to the readings in a way that would inject any sense of fun. Someone being told they’re “on the wrong track” and then getting hit by a train is pretty much the most the screenplay can muster up in that regard. Put simply, the deaths just aren’t scary or clever enough for the film to really find its feet.

Sadly, that’s not the only problem. There is precisely one supporting character (the aforementioned occult expert), which leaves the “normal” world looking weirdly empty – this is particularly ridiculous when they all return to their dorm rooms and literally no-one else is around. Did the production just decide to save money on extras, or was it a deliberate atmosphere-related decision that backfired?

On the plus side, the likeable cast ensure that Tarot does at least remain watchable. Slater (who was excellent in TV’s Pennyworth) in particular is much better than the film really deserves, and she really sells her character’s emotional moments, while Jacob Batalon essentially reprises his wise-cracking best friend turn from Tom Holland’s Spider-Man movies to winning effect – the handful of laughs in the script are entirely down to him.

In addition, it’s also fair to say that Cohen and Halberg know their way around a jump scare. There are a number of them here, and they all do the requisite job – it’s just a shame that that’s pretty much all there is. Indeed, they might has well have just called the film “Some Jump Scares” and had done with it.

Details

  • Directors: Spenser Cohen, Anna Halberg
  • Starring: Harriet Slater, Jacob Batalon, Olwen Fouéré
  • Release date: May 3 (in cinemas)
This content was originally sourced and posted at NME »
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