Silver Screen Cinema

Tarot Review

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Photo of Jacob Batalon

Jacob Batalon   

Sony Pictures Releasing

Rated: PG-13

92 Minutes

Directed by: Spencer Cohen, Anna Halberg

Starring: Harriet Slater, Jacob Batalon


Tarot Poster

The most popular subgenre of horror movies today is the “body count” film, in which someone or something spends the entire movie killing increasing numbers of victims. A successful body-count film has at least one of three elements. First, a charismatic (Freddie Krueger, Ghostface) or all-powerful (Michael Myers) villain. Second, a feisty hero (or, more often, heroine) the audience can actively root for (Jamie Lee Curtis). Or third, imaginative kills (Final Destination). Unfortunately, the newest body-count movie to hit theaters, Tarot, has none of those elements. It doesn’t even get the mechanics of reading tarot cards correct. Instead, it’s just a poor deal for theatergoers.

Tarot follows the misadventures of a dwindling group of college students who spend a party weekend at a creepy old mansion in the boonies. (I wonder what sort of Airbnb ratings these creepy horror film weekend getaway rentals get. When they run out of booze, the students ignore a

clearly posted "Keep Out" warning on the basement door, break the lock, and go below. There, they find a lot of weird curiosities, including a box of ancient tarot cards. Fortunately (?), one student, Haley (Harriet Slater), knows how to read tarot cards and tells everyone’s fortune, including her own. 

When the students return to civilization, they begin dying in bizarre fashions that mimic Haley’s readings. For example, one student who was told he was “on the wrong track” winds up at a deserted part of a subway station. A mysterious figure chases him, so he panics and runs onto the tracks, where… After doing internet research, Haley learns other similar groups have died in the past after tarot readings using the same cursed deck. So, she gathers her remaining friends and heads back to the mansion to destroy the cards and break the curse.

Tarot has an intriguing theme behind its various kills. The figure from each character’s central tarot card (Jester, High Priestess) comes to life and pursues them to their deaths. Unfortunately, the execution is sadly lacking, with each death scene seemingly directed by a different person. The film attempts, with little success, to create jump scares through loud noises on the soundtrack when a tarot character shows up. Several characters ignore the cardinal rule of horror movies: don’t leave the group and wander around on your own. They also ignore the warnings from their readings, such as one character who is told she likes to run away from things. She meets her demise by… surprise, running away at the wrong moment. The only entertaining kill in Tarot involves one character who finds herself in a magician’s box on stage while a magician who looks like Abe Lincoln starts to saw the box in half. Unfortunately, poor shot selection minimizes the scene’s effectiveness. This movie’s PG-13 rating also mandates bloodless offscreen kills, requiring more mood-killing cutaways.

The movie’s characters are an almost interchangeable, bland group other than Paxton (Jacob Batalon), the designated comic relief who doesn’t have a single funny line in the movie. The only noteworthy characteristic of any of them is their moronic decision-making that leads to their immediate death. Tarot also kills its momentum in the first 15 minutes by having Haley give each character their reading at mind-numbing length. In doing so, the film’s writers may have realized that most viewers aren’t familiar with the meaning of tarot cards. So, they turn the reading into a bizarre meld of tarot and astrology. (One character is a Taurus, which features in their fright scene.) Ironically, the movie is based on a novel called Horrorscope about a Ghostface-like serial killer imitating zodiac kills. That title and storyline would have made a better horror film than Tarot. Instead, moviegoers who see Tarot will want to ask for a new deck.

In this clip, the tarot cards play a trick on unsuspecting patrons at a showing of the movie Tarot:

Watch Jacob Batalon on Amazon Prime Video:

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