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“Frustrating” is a word that came to mind a lot while watching Tarot, the new horror film from directors Spenser Cohen and Anna Halberg based on Nicholas Adams’ 1992 novel Horrorscope. For one thing, it’s frustrating that the studio decided to change the film’s title from the much more fun Horrorscope to simply Tarot, a word that evokes too many different things to establish any kind of tone. Setting the right tone and holding to it is vital for horror films, more so than in any other genre. Tone creates atmosphere, and in the world of horror atmosphere covers all manner of sins.


Which brings us to the next frustrating aspect of Tarot: its lack of any tangible atmosphere or tonal consistency. It doesn’t even commit to a particular emotional arc for any member of its ensemble cast. Even the most mediocre of horror films can be elevated by the simple feeling that the minds behind it know what kind of film they’re making and are leaning into that vibe. With this film, a creature feature that’s too light on the creatures and too heavy on exposition, you get the sense that the whole movie is mimicking the decision to change the title. It’s trying to be everything at once, and ends up feeling flimsy, empty, and again, very, very frustrating.


The title refers to a deck of very old, handpainted tarot cards that a group of friends find while they’re exploring the spooky old mansion they rented for the weekend. Right away, college student Haley (Harriet Slater), who knows her astrology and her tarot decks, decides she’s going to use the cards to tell the fortunes of her friend group as a kind of gift for her friend Elise’s (Larsen Thompson) birthday, the reason they’re all at the mansion to begin with.


The friend group, from resident stoner comic relief Paxton (Jacob Batalon) to Haley’s recent ex-boyfriend Grant (Adain Bradley), naturally has mixed reactions to having their fortunes told through a stack of very creepy cards. But Haley’s committed and, the movie shows us, talented at this sort of thing. She gives everyone a thorough fortune telling, the night ends, and that seems to be the end of it.


Except, of course, it’s not. Soon Haley’s friends are being picked off one by one, attacked in the dark by creatures that seem to have leapt right out of the tarot deck and into the real world. Turns out this particular tarot deck was cursed, and if Haley and what’s left of her friend group hope to survive, they have to find a way to break that curse.



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