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TAROT (2024)

Release Date: 05/10/24 [Cinemas]
Genre: Horror.

Studio: Screen Gems.

"When a group of friends recklessly violates the sacred rule of Tarot readings, they unknowingly unleash an unspeakable evil trapped within the cursed cards. One by one, they come face to face with fate and end up in a race against death." 


Seven college students gather for a weekend getaway and stumble upon a deck of tarot cards. One teen conveniently knows how to read them, and uses them to tell everyone their future - including her own. This activity seems harmless at first, but when members of the group begin dying in bizarre ways, the remaining few realize that they’ve been cursed by the cards. They must figure out a way to change their fates before it’s too late.


That is the premise of Tarot, a film loosely based on the film Horrorscope by Nicholas Adams. Emphasis on the word “loosely.” Where the book is set up more as a whodunit, with the killer committing murders that are inspired by the signs of the Zodiac, Tarot is essentially just a rip-off of Final Destination. Now, one of the major differences between the two films is that here the ominous and omnipresent entity of Death is swapped out for Fate. Another major difference between the two is that Final Destination is actually good. Here, Fate isn’t even really an entity. Instead, it’s ultimately revealed to be a pissed off ghost that uses the cards as a means to kill off anyone who has their horoscope read. It’s just as ridiculous as it sounds - but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.


As if the film didn’t suffer enough of an identity crisis, there are several drastic tonal shifts that make the viewer question if this was originally supposed to be a horror film at all. More specifically, there are way too many attempts at comedy - and too many revolve around the character played by Jacob Batalon. While it’s one thing to have occasional comic relief, every few minutes the character is cracking a joke or saying something that’s supposed to be funny. While it’s not Batalon’s fault, those failed attempts at humor make the film less bearable and contribute to incoherence. In one of the film’s major scenes, where the friend group first witnesses “Fate” kill one of their own, Batalon’s character is quick to make a sarcastic remark. And in the next scene, he insists on separating from the group entirely almost as if he’s completely forgotten what just happened.


His character isn’t the only one to make poor choices though. At times, some of the choices are so poor you wonder if you’re watching real human beings. Every character that dies in this film dies because they deliberately do something stupid. In the third act, in a sequence where all of the remaining survivors are literally running from “Fate”, one character runs away from the others. You don’t need a psychic reading to know what happens next. 


It’s not a big enough insult to the audience that the characters make no sense. But the film makes no sense too. Aside from the aforementioned “twist” regarding what the entity is, the idea that all of our characters are shown their future in the very beginning of the film but don’t know that they are going to die seems very contradictory. At some point it’s established that “Fate” is taking these readings and making them come true in a horrific way, but later it’s revealed that the entity doesn’t have total control after all. Where Final Destination establishes clear rules on how to cheat its antagonist, Tarot shuffles its own rules over and over again in the hopes of eventually drawing a decent hand. But it never does draw that hand. 

People may go to the movies to turn off their brains, but that doesn’t mean they still don’t like to be engaged by cohesive storytelling. Conflicted, clichéd and filled with one dimensional characters, Tarot’s biggest sin by far is the fact that it underestimates its audience’s intelligence. Despite a concept that seemed cool, all signs point to Tarot being one of the worst films of the year.


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