‘Tarot’ Review: The cards are stacked against the spiritless horror film, leaving viewers yearning for a more chilling experience


Written and directed by “Moonfall” scribe Spenser Cohen and executive producer Anna Halberg, the new horror thriller “Tarot” is filled with seven entities, which is ironic and disappointing because the film is rather spiritless. The story centers on a group of college friends renting a mansion to celebrate a birthday. Of course, it’s a creepy mansion (Scarebnb?) that comes with its own occult museum. When they discover a box of ancient tarot cards emblazoned with frightening images, they do what anyone would in that situation: use them for horoscopes.

“It’s an unspoken rule not to use somebody else’s cards,” warns novice astrologist Haley (Harriet Slater) upon discovering the dusty box of tarot cards. Birthday girl Elise (Larsen Thompson) replies, “Who cares?” which is all it takes to convince Haley to give a group reading.

The hand-painted cards illustrated by graphic artist Richard Wells complement Trevor Henderson’s monster designs, which were brought to life by 13 Finger FX special effects creator Dan Martin (“Possessor,” “Infinity Pool”). The High Priestess and The Fool stand out, but the filmmakers go overboard with the CGI enhancement, burying the creatures under digital effects, diminishing their impact.

One by one, the friends are stalked by a figure directly related to their reading, meeting grisly deaths along the way. The PG-13 violence means minimal amounts of blood splatter and no graphic content.

Jacob Batalon, the most notable member of the cast thanks to his role as Ned Leeds in the “Spider-Man” universe, is once again playing the comic relief as Paxton, who seems to be a variation of his superhero sidekick.

The cast also includes Avantika Vandanapu from “Mean Girls,” Adain Bradley (“The Bold and the Beautiful”) as Haley’s ex, Grant, Humberly González as Madeline, who is featured in the film’s best moment, the bridge scene, and Wolfgang Novogratz as Lucas.

With no Elise Rainer in sight, the college friends enlist the help of occult expert Alma Astryn, played by veteran Irish actress Olwen Fouéré, who took on the role of final girl Sally Hardesty in 2022’s “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Astryn reveals the backstory behind the cursed deck of cards leading up to the big finale, which makes no sense. The Jordan Peele-inspired “Get Out” ending feels more like a “Get Outta Here” letdown as you question if you missed something.

Filled with overused tropes, one-dimensional characters, clunky dialogue, and zero frights unless you count horror composer Joseph Bishara’s blaring score, which serves as the film’s jump scares, “Tarot” is style over substance, resulting in a few impressive scenes and 92 minutes of boredom. I guess you could say horror was not in the cards.

(2 stars)

Now showing in theaters

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