By Chris Cabin
For quite some time now, the horror genre has simply been seen as an easy jolt; a way to get your date to jump into your arms for consolation that will later pay-off at a run for second base. Furthermore, it's a reason to plug in formula more than any other genre, a fact exploited in Wes Craven's Scream films. The disease is rampant in the U.S., with few exceptions in the rest of the world. Social commentary in horror films (Land of the Dead, The Devil's Rejects) just doesn't sell as much as wimpy, by-the-numbers stuff (Saw II, House of Wax) these days.
Tamara raises the stakes: it throws in even more teen hormones than House of Wax. Tell me if this sounds familiar: an ugly duckling named Tamara (Jenna Dewan) is accidentally killed while being bullied about uncovering steroid usage at school. But death, of course, never keeps a good girl down. She returns as a cleavage-sprouting hottie with an axe to grind against the kids who put her in the ground, using her new-found power to make people do what she wants. She also makes time to try to get close to Mr. Notally (Matthew Marsden), the dreamy teacher who ignored her before her death. Don't get me started about how Tamara drives her dispatchers to self-mutilation and homosexual tendencies. Oh, and her father is a booze hound, in case you didn't know.
First things first: Screenwriter Jeffrey Reddick has bootlegged the plot to Carrie and peppered it with some A Nightmare on Elm Street gore to create complete confection carnage. This is boring, trite writing that never brings out any real subtext about sexuality, death, revenge, or high school. There is a lack of passion in the writing or any apparent interest in the subject matter. This brings me to Jeremy Haft, the director. Those who want to give this a pass on B-movie standards should check out the work of Larry Cohen, the great '70s B-movie horror director who took time to season his tacky horror films with thoughts on abortion (It's Alive!) and religion (God Told Me To). Tamara doesn't have one new thing going for it, nor does it really have anything tacky or funny enough to qualify it as a guilty pleasure. You can feel the ennui of the director, actors, and writer in every single frame.
What really gets me about the film is that it's not a rare thing. Good horror films have started being imported from other countries, but we are in a serious drought in this country. Even notable exceptions like 28 Days Later and The Devil's Rejects don't hold much of a candle against a film like Takashi Miike's Audition. Tamara's crime isn't that it is a bad movie, necessarily, but rather the fact that furthers the idea that it's okay to just crank out horror films with such low expectations. Of course, the other side is cold, soulless films like Wolf Creek and High Tension, but you're either ripping off Tobe Hooper or Wes Craven in that tennis match. To treat a genre that has been honored by such visionaries as David Cronenberg, George A. Romero, and John Carpenter with this sort of ignorance has the stench of money over integrity.
She doesn't look so scary.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 3rd February 2006
Box Office Worldwide: $206.9 thousand
Distributed by: Lions Gate Films
Production compaines: Lions Gate Films, City Lights Pictures
Rotten Tomatoes: 32%
Fresh: 9 Rotten: 19
Cast & Crew
Producer: Danny Fisher, Matt Milich, Martin Wiley, Chris Sievernich
Starring: Jenna Dewan as Tamara Riley, Marc Devigne as Roger, Chad Faust as Jesse, Katie Stuart as Chloe, Bryan Clark as Shawn, Melissa Marie Elias as Kisha, Matthew Marsden as Bill Natolly, Claudette Mink as Alison Natolly, Gil Hacohen as Patrick, Magally Zelaya as Freshman Girl #2, Brian Davisson as Security Guard, Chris Sigurdson as Mr. Riley, Sarah Blondin as Freshman Girl #1, Ernesto Griffith as Cop #1, Jeffrey Reddick as Doctor, Brandy Jaques as Receptionist