Tarot: A surprising fate in store for audiences – Movie Review by Juan Mojica (@LeadingMojicans) #TarotMovie

Tarot: A surprising fate in store for audiences – Movie Review by Juan Mojica (@LeadingMojicans) #TarotMovie

If you knew what your fate would be, would you embrace it or try to change it? Films like “Final Destination” have asked this question for years as audiences follow the characters along their journey to save themselves. Whether we root for them to survive or meet their gruesome and untimely demise, we don’t normally ask ourselves what we would do in their situation because we see it as a purely fictional scenario. The scariest horror films prey on their audiences by sinking their teeth into aspects of reality that we see as normal or simply take for granted. As horoscopes & tarot card readings continue to gain popularity, as people are more interested in what they have to say about their futures, it was only a matter of time until Hollywood made a film depicting them in a terrifying light. But were they able to pull this off or is this another mainstream horror film with a great concept with a mediocre execution?

“Tarot” is the newest film from Sony Pictures & is based on the 1992 novel “Horrorscope” written by Nicholas Adams. It tells the story of a group of college friends who are staying over at an Airbnb to celebrate one of their birthdays. As they explore the house looking for booze they stumble upon a hidden deck of tarot cards and recklessly decide to do a reading with them. As they break the sacred rule of Tarot (never use another person’s deck of cards to do a reading), they unleash an evil trapped within the cursed cards that leads them to confront fate face to face & end up in a race against death. 

This is a film that will undoubtedly divide audiences into one of two camps. The first being those whose expectations were very low going into the film and found themselves pleasantly surprised and entertained by the PG13 flick. Or the second camp where they think the film is absolutely awful & unoriginal because it feels like they’ve seen this film before and expect more from mainstream horror films and even horror films in general as fans of the genre. I have seen many critics find themselves aligning with the second camp, however I’m in the first camp. While as a critic I can acknowledge that the film does have its flaws, I found myself having a really good time with it. I consider myself quite easy to please as a moviegoer, as long as the movie entertains & takes me by surprise. But this film has aspects that I feel teenagers and members of Gen Z will likely enjoy. And given that it’s quite obvious that this film is targeted towards that specific audience, it technically succeeds.

An aspect that I really appreciate about this film is that it channels 2000s horror film vibes with its overall aesthetic, the storytelling elements that it chooses to portray such as how the premonitions are told, executed throughout, & the way it pushes the envelope for a PG13 mainstream horror film. As a 90s kid, PG13 horror films from the 2000s acted as my gateway into the Horror genre until I was able to brace certain R rated films. For someone who’s currently growing up & looking to get into the genre as a teenager, this serves the same purpose as it shows them the basics of what they can expect before they eventually move along to stronger, better & more intense films. This film was a welcome surprise as I found myself more invested in the story because it embraced those characteristics & tropes. While there are people who take issue with comfort in what feels familiar, there’s also a reassurance in knowing that some films aren’t trying to traumatize their audience instead of entertaining them. In a typical 2000s horror film formula, you’re able to point out the tropes, have a few laughs and usually be able to predict the ending or at least who survives. While some may find that to be dated, cliché and cheesy, I quite enjoyed it in this film.

The performances here are overall good given what they had to work with, but my personal favorite is Avantika’s performance. I found myself more attached to her character than I did to the main character and that’s thanks to what she brings to this role in order to stand out from the rest. You root for her throughout the film because she’s able to take a role that is normally considered the girlfriend or best friend role and make you care about her fate. She is already two for two with me in 2024 as I adored her performance in “Mean Girls” earlier this year. But in “Tarot” she not only gets to showcase why she’s someone casting directors need to keep their eye on for future projects, but also proving that she has scream queen potential. If “Mean Girls” proved that she can pull off a teen comedy & a musical, “Tarot” proves that even if the script isn’t the strongest, she will find a way to shine in her role. I’d love to see her star in a Slasher film after enjoying her work here. Another performance I really enjoyed was Jacob Batalon’s as he had the funniest lines in the film & you can tell he had a great time bringing to life the tropes commonly seen in the friend normally seen as “the fool”. He has excellent comedic timing & his character manages to leave a lasting impression as you start to analyze your friend group & see who best fits his character. 

When it comes to the script as I mentioned earlier, it’s not as strong as it could have been. There are some really cool scenes including one with a magician & one involving a bridge as seen in the trailer, but the dialogue while consistent for a 2000s horror film could’ve been punched up a bit. The other issue with the script is at times you do find yourself comparing it to other films you’ve seen. An example is when it came to the scene where they’re having the tarot reading, it felt a little bit like “Evil Dead” in the sense that their fates were sealed once the reading was completed. I wish it would’ve gone in the direction of a “Final Destination” film which finds ways to play with the audience & alter the fate a bit so it would feel like more of a cat & mouse chase. The film itself has a unique concept that I felt they could’ve gone further with so it wouldn’t feel like other adaptations we’ve seen such as the first “Ouija” film or even Blumhouse’s “Truth or Dare”.

Another aspect where the film shines is when it comes to the design of the tarot cards and the creatures. I thought the artwork really made the cards pop as well as give the cards that creepy feeling you need to question whether or not you should be picking them up. As for the creatures, when you’re able to see them, they’re quite scary for a mainstream horror film. I do wish that the lighting had been a bit brighter in some of the scenes so that you could fully appreciate their design. It would’ve added to those scenes where it would heighten the jump scares, which here surprisingly worked for me. 

It may feel like you’ve seen this film before, but somehow “Tarot” is still able to work as a fun Summer watch with friends, especially if they don’t love gory films. The horror movie genre has been quite hit or miss recently in terms of a film’s quality. Compared to some of the other mainstream horror films released this year, “Tarot” is a genuine surprise for me. This film won’t become a cult classic, nor will it be remembered for awards season or even end up on many people’s top 10 of the year lists come December. But sometimes you want to sit in an air-conditioned room with great snacks & be entertained for 90 minutes & in that regard “Tarot” will work for those who are interested in the story it wants to tell. And if they wanted to make a sequel, I’d watch it. If you’re curious about checking it out but still feel hesitant, I’d recommend either attending a matinee at your local theater or waiting down the line for it to be released on Netflix.

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