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  • Rev Horror


Dir. Spenser Cohen & Anna Halberg (2024)

A group of friends accidentally unleash evil when they break one of the unbreakable rules of a deck of tarot cards.

Teen horror often gets a bad rap for a couple of different reasons. When comparing these types of films with others, they're usually not that scary, not particularly well done, or with some combination of subpar acting or sufrace-level scripts. It's also really easy to forget that people in their horror journeys are all at a different level, and that horror is different for each individual viewer. What scares you might not scare me, and what scared me ten (or twenty) years ago might not scare me now. For every film like the one we're discussing today, there are hundreds or thousands of people who will see this as their entry to the genre, and that's never a bad thing, regardless of the lasting impression that each particular film might have on their viewer. Critiquing these films from the same perspective that we do others isn't particularly fair, but it's also all we've got. With that in mind, let's talk Tarot.

A group of friends are gathered for one of their members' birthdays at a house in the Catskills. After a night of partying, the group decides to perform a tarot reading with a group of cards that they find at the house, breaking the "unspoken rule" that you should never use someone else's cards to do a reading. Unfortunately, this deck is cursed, and the center card for each member of the group begins to come to life and take them out in ways that mirror their horoscope predictions. When the origins of the deck are traced back to a 1700's psychic who put a curse on the deck, the group must break the curse in order to survive.

Tarot is, ultimately, a subpar film in a lot of ways, but it also excels in a few areas as well. That tends to be the case with teen horror, even the really cheesy ones, as this one certainly is. It's filled to the brim with jumpscares and creepy visuals, though it's often hard to see them with the overly dark cinematography. It never seems quite sure whether it wants to dedicate some of its runtime to horror comedy or if it wants to be a straight-faced horror, and it does suffer a little because of it. The acting is wooden and almost stageplay-ish, but it's difficult to blame the actors because the script is the main problem with the film. The back-and-forth dialogue between the characters feels more expository than it needs to be, with a lot of references to scenes in the past as if the characters are really, really stupid and need reminding of things that just happened.

All of those negatives aside, Tarot feels like the sort of movie that the current generation will look back upon with fondness later in life, sort of the way that we look back on 80's horror today. That's the case with a lot of films like this, I think. The film is cheesy and dumb, but it's also got a lot of fun kills and some excellent and creepy monster design. It's mostly CGI, so it doesn't carry the weight or the charm that it otherwise might have, but it's still pretty scary. This is one that works better for people who are not normally fans of the genre, which may make it a bit of a turnoff for those that are, but I think it's fair to say that this one isn't really made for you if you're already a horror fan. It's formulaic teen horror, and your appreciation of this film will depend greatly on your appreciation of that formula.

Probably because of its appeal to a younger audience, Tarot is largely forgettable and tropey, an overreliance on jumpscares and exposition that will turn a large part of its audience off. Most of us horror fans have seen better, deeper, and more well-done films, and this one isn't really inventive enough to leave a lasting impact. It will find its market, though, because it's not the worst film I've seen even with all of the criticisms I've levied against it. The lean-in to the astrology element makes sense, and was probably a necessity, for a movie called Tarot, but it often comes across as overbearing and is a bit less subtle than it would need to be to have the makings of a good movie. It's still relatively entertaining, and despite its shortcomings, it makes for a fun, brain-off watch for even those that won't come away loving it.

Who this movie is for: Teen horror lovers, Supernatural horror fans, Astrologists

Bottom line: Tarot is a forgettable teen horror movie that will still likely appeal to its target audience. Unfortunately, if you're a horror buff, that audience probably isn't you. It's tropey, kinda dumb, and has a lackluster script, but it also has some cool creature design and decent kills to go along with it. It's definitely not gonna be the best film you see this year, but it also likely won't be the worst. Give it a look, if just to say that you've seen it. And who knows, maybe it'll get you into astrology.

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