‘Tarot’ movie review: Thrills and chills aren’t in the cards for this routine horror film


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A group of college students are violently killed one-by-one after a fateful tarot reading in the frightfully unimaginative Tarot, which opens in Prague and cinemas worldwide this weekend. Following in the well-worn footsteps of tepid horror films like Ouija, Truth or Dare, and Wish Upon, this one is painfully obvious from the word go, but never gets silly enough to provide any bad-movie fun.

Last year’s monkey paw chiller Talk to Me suggested brighter things on the horizon for this type of horror movie, but Tarot dials things back to the same narrative these things have been following for decades: group of college students plays around with supernatural object they don’t understand, and quickly comes to regret it. This very specific sub-genre’s roots lie in early 2000s successes like The Ring and Final Destination.

Tarot opens with a group of largely interchangeable Boston-area college students played by Harriet Slater, Humberly González, Larsen Thompson, Avantika, Wolfgang Novogratz, Adain Bradley, and Jacob Batalon (Spider-Man: No Way Home) during a weekend retreat at an isolated manor in the Catskills (played by locations in Belgrade, Serbia). Desperate and out of booze, they search the weekend rental for a hidden stash but only turn up a box of creepy hand-illustrated tarot cards.

No alcohol? Sure, some tarot readings from this musty old deck will liven up the party. But when those readings start coming true over the following days, things start to take a dark turn. Waitaminute… surely all of these characters didn’t get a reading implying imminent violent death? No, they did not. But they did draw a creepy central card that comes to life to murder them in ways hinted at by the literal language of their reading.

In past films of this type, the characters would have to visit a library and scan microfiche to uncover the true horror behind the curse that stalks them. But in Tarot, that kind of thing is just a Google search away. In fact, there have been multiple cases of young adults mysteriously dying after tarot readings, though our protagonists have to pay a midnight visit to a tarot expert with pinboard walls (Mandy‘s Olwen Fouéré) to get the full story. It involves a royal astrologer in old Hungary, an ancient curse, and an expedient five minutes of climactic exposition.

The saving grace keeping Tarot from the bottom of this horror barrel is the novelty of the tarot cards themselves, which are nicely illustrated and lead to some briefly appealing creatures. Despite working with a script that couldn’t have inspired much confidence, the effects team, at least, gives this movie more effort than it deserves.

There’s precisely one engaging death scene here, a magician-inspired sequence that features a character hiding in a box… no prizes for guessing what happens. While the setting is transposed from what should be 17th century Hungary to 1920s vaudeville, the vibrant makeup effects used to set the scene evoke some Insidious-like goofball hellscape vibes, and provide a taste of the kind of horror stylings the rest of the film could have desperately used.

Tarot is based on the 1992 YA novel Horrorscope, written by the pseudonymous Nicholas Adams, which focused on daily hororscopes rather than tarot cards. It was directed by Spenser Cohen (co-writer on The Expendables 4 and Moonfall) and Anna Halberg, who previously collaborated on the fictional horror podcast Classified. But the end result leaves you feeling as if an algorithm is the true brainchild behind the story; this PG-13 movie about a group of college students who play around with a cursed deck of tarot cards certainly won’t surprise anyone who has the poor fortune of stumbling upon it.



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