Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Review: Tamara (2005)

Tamara (2005)

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(Originally posted here)

Where to begin, where to begin... ah, yes, the Carrie comparisons. Shy, awkward teenage girl who's really beautiful underneath her ugly clothes? Check. Said girl has an abusive parent? Check. She is the victim of a cruel prank by her classmates? Check. She has (or at least acquires) psychic powers that she uses to get revenge? Check. It's stating the obvious to call this movie a ripoff, plot-wise. With a few changes to the script, this could easily have been Carrie 3; simply replace Tamara's mind-control abilities and witchcraft with telekinesis and throw in some connection to the original (or even its sequel), and you'd be good to go. Hell, this film even goes as far as to incorporate elements of the ending of Stephen King's original book that weren't in De Palma's film adaptation, which I won't mention for risk of spoiling this film or the book, except that you'll know them when you see them.

Now, this film is obviously in the shadow of a classic, but how does it fare on its own merits? Short answer: it's a great slice of B-movie mayhem. (Put that on the posters! Oh wait, it's about seven years too late for that.) This is not high art, nor is it psychological horror like its inspiration; rather, it is a spectacularly violent teen slasher that makes up for its unoriginality with copious amounts of gore. This film has it all, with all manner of blood being sprayed and flesh ripped off, cut off, gouged out, and even vomited up. Tamara is very creative with her kills, with the two highlights being a reference to the Three Wise Monkeys (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil -- I'll let you figure it out) and a scene involving the use of beer bottles as weapons in a way that doesn't involve hitting people with them. Coming from the writer of Final Destination, this is hardly a surprise. It does not hold back one inch on the violence, which is easily one of the best things about it.

Also helping to liven up the proceedings is Jenna Dewan as the eponymous villain. She pulls out a great performance here, playing essentially two characters equally well -- a mousy, witchy nerd in the first half-hour, and a femme fatale in the rest of the film. How a woman so beautiful managed to successfully look so frumpy without pulling a Charlize Theron in Monster, I will never know. (Could she be a witch for real?) She wins your sympathy right from the start, and then forces you to hate her for all the right reasons. That, and she is absolutely gorgeous. Given that she's now Channing Tatum's wife (lucky bastard), here's hoping that she leverages her husband's fame to get some bigger and better work, because she deserves it.

The rest of the cast, though, ranges from mediocre to awful. Katie Stuart and Claudette Mink managed to come out looking the best (or the least bad), while the guy playing Shawn didn't even seem to emote; the rest fall somewhere in between, varying throughout the film. The dialogue can also be cringeworthy at times, with one standout scene being when Kisha calls Shawn "so cool", though Melissa Elias' acting in that scene is admittedly a big part of why it's so narmy.

In addition, the film's determination to follow Carrie's blueprint hurts it in a number of big ways. Beyond just the predictability of the plot, the entire subplot involving Tamara's father seemed superfluous. In Carrie, Margaret's domineering influence over Carrie was a major part of who she was and why she was bullied, while here, Tamara is hated by her classmates for reasons completely independent of her drunken, molesting father. It just seems as though the writer wanted to give Tamara a tragic backstory just for the sake of it, never bringing it into play in the rest of the film. Tamara's dad should've been dropped entirely, or at least made into a background character with only a scene or two. Another thing that struck me was the subplot of Allison's infertility. In a better script, it would've given her husband, the English teacher Bill, a reason to give in to the advances of his student Tamara, yet this is used simply as background material. In place of the dad, this should've been fleshed out more, making Bill and Allison more interesting characters than they ultimately were.

Score: 3 out of 5

There are only two reasons to watch this film, but they're great reasons -- the gore, and Jenna Dewan. If you don't go in expecting anything more than a cheesy, B-grade teen slasher that flagrantly rips off a much better film, you'll have quite a fun time.

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