Tamara

"This is so wrong... But I have a scholarship."

So Carrie isn’t a fair point of comparison to anything, but Tamara, a terrible horror film getting a limited theatrical release, is just begging for the analogy to Brian De Palma’s masterpiece. I’m not sure why, and I don’t know what director Jeremy Haft’s ambitions were: homage, rip-off, or innocent genre film. If the former, then it’s more of an insult. If the latter, it’s more offensively bad than innocent. If the middle, then, yes, we’re getting warmer.

The idea is that a shy, frumpy, introverted high school outcast turns to witchcraft and then — when a cruel prank played by her classmates goes horribly wrong — she returns from the dead as a stunning bombshell to exact from revenge. Problem is, the movie ruins the surprise of the title character’s transformation (which is fairly impressive, with all credit to star Jenna Dewan) by opening the film with her in full miniskirt regalia in a sex fantasy. What? Why? This is the entire gimmick! To give it away in the first shot is either incompetent or a statement to the effect that Haft likes a challenge.

If it’s a challenge, he drops the ball. The first half of the film is filled with awkward high school jocks-and-nerds cliches — the nerd, after taking a drink of alcohol, exclaims, “That’s one quality libation!” Tamara herself is a singularly unsympathetic outcast — sex-starved and after her married English teacher (Matthew Marsden), she managed to creep me out; when one of her kinder classmates tells the brutal ones that she’s really “a pretty cool girl,” I had to strenuously disagree.

In any event, Tamara rises from the grave with the power to telepathically control her victims and make them suffer brutal deaths — one cuts off his ears and tongue before stabbing the knife into his eye; another eats several glass bottles whole — and the gore is genuinely disgusting without being interesting. There is a nonsensical climax in a hospital that suddenly becomes abandoned so that people can swing knives and metal pans with impunity. It’s very boring and very, very dumb.

Her notable physical makeover notwithstanding, Jenna Dewan makes a vapid villainness, with a goofy smile and one seductive/menacing note. Making her purely evil after setting her up as the protagonist evidences a terminal lack of imagination. Surely independent horror has more to offer than this.

-- Eugene Novikov

Tamara
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