Friday, May 03, 2024

Tarot: There is No Future in These Cards

It is really just glorified solitaire, but we like to pretend it means something. Evidently, tarot fortune telling is related to zodiac astrology—a fact that should diminish rather bolster its credibility. When asked, my college astronomy professor used to start his answers with: “if you know anything about astrology, and I really hope you don’t…” Maybe he was more right than he realized. Since this is a horror movie, there really is something to tarot, something terribly sinister. As you might, a late-night session with the cards has fatal consequences in co-director-screenwriters Spenser Cohen & Anna Halberg’s Tarot, which opens today nationwide.

Like most college students, Haley and her friends are drinking like fish during their final Airbnb getaway before finals. It is a little awkward since she just dumped Grant, whom everyone assumed she would marry. While hoping to find a hidden liquor cabinet, they stumble across a cache of astrologic artefacts. Seeing an ominous hand-painted deck of tarot cards, they push and prod Haley, an amateur tarot reader, into telling their fortunes. She is reluctant, because readers are only supposed to use their own deck, but hey, what could possibly go wrong?

Obviously, those ratty, macabre cards are very different. For one thing, they actually work, predicting her friends’ futures in lethally ironic ways. At first, the deaths resemble those in
Final Destination, before we see it is really the demonic figures from the tarot cards that are stalking them. The internet leads Haley to dodgy astrologist Alma Astryn, who is indeed familiar with the nasty tarot deck. She barely survived her first encounter with it, because she never read her own fortune, unlike  Haley. Astryn has been chasing those cards ever since.

is not a classic horror movie by any stretch, but it is energetically executed. In many ways, it feels like a throwback to the late 1990s-early 2000s post-Scream era of films, very much in the tradition of Final Destination. Think of all those movies with four hot teens and their goofball friend posing like models on the poster. In this case, Jacob Batalon plays schlubby Paxton, who is a lot like Reginald the Vampire.

Batalon does his usual schtick, but Harriet Slater and Adain Bradley are surprisingly charismatic elevating the under-written characters of Haley and Grant. Plus, Olwen Fouere, who is quickly becoming the new Lin Shaye, brings reliable weirdness as Astryn.

The backstory is sort of cool too, in an unexpectedly gothic way. The spectral “Astrologist” orchestrating the terrors turns out to be a vengeful spirit, whose Hungarian lord executed her daughter way back during the feudal era. However, Cohen and Halberg do not give her much personality while she stalks the clueless kids.

is not a great movie, but it is entertaining in a late-night-with-your-buddies kind of way. If you and your friends are planning on going to a horror movie this weekend, Tarot will be much more satisfying than I Saw the TV Glow. The characters are mostly boneheads, but there is a lot pleasingly creepy art and set design (which for the horror genre is almost as important). Tarot is not exactly recommended, but it could turn out to be a guilty pleasure for a lot of horror fans. It opens today (5/3) nationwide, including the Look 57 in New York.