Tarot pleasantly surprised me and I can't stop thinking about the creepy jester

Boasting one of the creepiest clown scenes in recent memory, Tarot is a fun PG-13 flick with great monster designs.
Avantika Vandanapu as Paige in Screen Gems TAROT - Cr: Slobodan Pikula
Avantika Vandanapu as Paige in Screen Gems TAROT - Cr: Slobodan Pikula /

Sony's latest PG-13 horror movie, Tarot, based on Nicholas Adams's book of the same name hit theaters the first weekend of May. Despite what you might expect from Tarot, I think it has the makings of a cult fave à la Thirteen Ghosts.

Yes, Tarot has many flaws, but somehow, they didn't make me like the movie any less, because of its great monsters. Going into Tarot, I admit I had low expectations, but I left the theater pleasantly surprised by what I saw.

Let's get the bad out of the way first so I can expand on what I did like.

To start, the characters are all pretty one-dimensional, like that thing where it seems like the writer described them with three adjectives (or, in this case, one horoscope), and that's about it. The script, too, is a basic, predictable, paint-by-numbers kind of story. A group of friends stumble upon a creepy old deck of tarot cards. Conveniently, Haley (Harriet Slater), the film's main character (she gets the most development), happens to be big into astrology and performs readings for the others. Suddenly, they start dying one by one in ways that eerily mimic their fortunes.

The ending, too, is a miss for me. I think the film works best when it drops the comedy and leans into horror, which is why the ending, which I won't spoil, fell flat. Even though the characters are college-aged, the film very much gives off "teen scream" genre vibes. Part of me wonders if they started as teens, but because Sam Adams beer is featured heavily in the opening scenes, they aged them up so it wouldn't look like the brand was sponsoring teen drinking.

Larsen Thompson (Finalized)
Larsen Thompson as Elise in Screen Gems TAROT - Cr: Slobodan Pikula /

Anyway, those things might cause some people scoff and thumbs down Tarot, but the monster designs elevate it from similar PG-13 starter horror films. According to Bloody Disgusting, artist Trevor Henderson was responsible for the designs—and they steal the entire movie.

Tarot's best scenes are the ones where the monsters are at the forefront, and lucky for us, that's the majority of its 90-minute runtime. Tarot does not waste time getting to the good stuff, and after slogging through the long-winded exposition of Boy Kills World exactly one week ago, I am eternally grateful. That's why it didn't matter much to me that I thought the characters were one-dimensional. They're not really the stars here and are really just there to be killed off.

I do wish they could have pushed its PG-13 rating or gone full R-rated, as I'd have loved to see some of those kill scenes in all of their gruesome glory. As it stands, several were still particularly memorable, such as the sequences involving The Fool and The Magician. The jester scene is one of the creepiest I've seen recently, and the eerie mixture of clownish horror with the uncanny makes for a delightfully scary sequence. Similarly, The Magician sequence toward the end is terrifying and refreshingly offbeat for a mainstream horror movie.

A jaunty descent into monster mayhem, Tarot elevates itself from a lackluster script with its fiendish creature designs.. . Tarot. Tarot. B-

Tarot is currently playing in theaters and will eventually stream on Netflix.

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