Tuesday, July 9, 2013

REVIEW: Tamara (2005)

Ah, I remember the days when we got movies like this all the time…you know, the stupid “horror” flicks about people who get killed by dumb high school students and then come back for revenge, killing them off in silly slasher fashion? I Know What You Did Last Summer, Forget Me Not, Sorority Row, Prom Night…the list goes on. So why not add another movie to the list? I’m talking about the asininely stupid, daft mess known as Tamara.

Director: Jeremy Haft
Starring: Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Katie Stuart

A good way to tell a movie isn’t going to be that good is when the title of the film is the name of a character you don’t know and probably won’t remember after it’s done…some of them, like Lincoln, work because the title is an iconic figure. I bet the people who made this really thought Tamara was going to be a big hit, though – the next big horror villain. Maybe they even had sequels planned. Guess how well THAT went…

We start with a four minute long credit sequence in which nothing is established. They could have easily put these credits over the top of the actual first scene, but I guess instead they thought it SO IMPORTANT that we see a bunch of pictures of dark basements, candles being lit and occult pentagrams everywhere. Or rather, they thought it important to pad out the length of this thing and make it look like a longer movie than it really is. Splendid.

We then get a sex scene between Tamara and her teacher, Mr. Natolly. Then a bunch of kids appear in the doorway and start laughing at them. The teacher recoils and says he could never love her, which is all revealed to be a dream that she’s having in class. Amazing – that’s almost ten minutes of wasted time that won’t have anything to do with the actual story now. I so love when movies begin with non sequitur garbage that won’t have a bearing on the plot – so many good ones do!

Aw, how cute, you can turn the camera sideways.

We finally get to the plot – joy, joy – when we find out Tamara has written some article for the school paper accusing a bunch of athletes of taking performance enhancing drugs, and now they all want revenge or something…riveting. Or just sleep-inducing. I sometimes get the two confused. It’s really just kinda confusing, though, since we never hear hide nor hair of Tamara writing anything for the rest of the film, and the whole plot point about the drugs is dropped about fifteen minutes in.

Also, how the hell are these people supposed to pass for high school students? They’re clearly in their 30s! Not that I don’t believe the people who made the movie aren’t 30 year olds who never got out of high school, but c’mon, not everything has to be an allusion to real life.

Yeah, that's about two steps away from an alcoholic deadbeat dad.
What are these two 30 year olds doing on a high school campus? Are they lost? Maybe they're just revisiting their glory days.

Tamara goes through the day and gets threatened and harassed by a bunch of people who are bigger than her, and like any school, nothing is done to stop it at all. I guess this one girl tries to tell them to back off, but even then, she doesn’t try that hard. Not much of a victory there...

After that, we see her try to make out with her teacher in real life this time, after he tells her he believes in her or some shit. He turns her down because he already has a wife and doesn’t want to end up on the 6:00 news in black and white stripes. Good choice there, bucko. Unfortunately the bullies all heard it too, and make a plan to trick Tamara into thinking the teacher really does love her back – because yeah, schemes you’d see on Roadrunner cartoons make for good horror movie plots, right? Sadly many movies take my sarcasm there waaaaay too seriously…

Before that though, they launch a contrived plan to use the school’s TV and audio equipment to filter one of their voices to sound like the teacher’s. To do this, they enlist the nerdy, socially awkward geek with glasses (glasses always = no social skills in these movies, you see) who runs the equipment to help, and invite him along, telling him it’s going to be a party. They also invite along some random guy and his girlfriend, but the girlfriend declines.

Their facial expressions are very telling. You can practically glean a whole narrative out of it - their futures, even. The guy's says "I'm destined to be in a movie like Tamara." The girl's says "I'm so done with this idiot. Time to ditch the beanie cap and go to nursing school like my mom said."

I’m actually fairly sure this character wasn’t supposed to be in the movie. The scene is so random and he doesn’t do anything at all the whole runtime, so my guess is, he just overheard the other characters talking about a party and figured they were having a party in real life and weren't acting. By the time he realized what was going on, it was too late, and any aspirations he had to a career in entertainment were shot down.

Meanwhile, Tamara performs a voodoo spell trying to get the teacher to love her. Way to get me invested in your main character, movie…you stupid piece o’ shit. Of course the magic in this movie is totally one dimensional and just there to fuel the idiot plot. Movies like this, as well as Forget Me Not and My Soul to Take, might as well just go all out and say the characters buy their magic in the new aisle at WalMart.

The bullies trick Tamara into coming down to this crappy motel room and leave a note in the room telling her to take her clothes off. Everyone else, being idiots, just assumes she is actually an exotic dancer. I really can’t wait for them to die now…I mean seriously?

Yes, the cautious and demure way she took off that dress, and the way she gets under the covers afterwards to cover up, is really how exotic dancers act, right?

I guess the fact that they’re all in their 30s makes it a little harder to tell, though.

So she gets pranked on tape and runs out of the room crying. She sees the one girl who was nice to her in the hotel room too (why did the bullies bring her again?), and goes crazy, attacking them. They accidentally kill her by knocking her head into a table, and then everyone starts the usual crap you get in these movies. What’s that? You don’t know how it goes? Well, let me enlighten you…

A DRAMATIC RE-ENACTMENT OF TIRED HORROR CLICHÉ

UNREALISTIC JACKASS: We can’t turn this into the police, I have a life I want to live!

VOICE OF REASON (as a metaphoric concept): No, this is insane and cannot happen! We are moral human be----

[UNREALISTIC JACKASS unzips his fly and urinates on VOICE OF REASON, who recoils in disgust and fear]

UNREALISTIC JACKASS: I won’t let any of you go against me or else I’ll kill you! We’re all in this together even though it was just me who killed the person in the first place! The justice system doesn’t discriminate against different levels of a crime! I don’t care if I did just murder another human being by accident, I NEED TO LIVE MY SUPERFICIAL AND SHALLOW LIFE! I am more important than anyone else in the world! I AM THE ALPHA AND OMEGA!

Eh, I may have embellished a little. But that’s the gist of it. Ugh, can you believe the main bully actually says to the nice girl, “You go ahead and tell the cops; I’ll tell them you killed her because you got jealous”? Seriously? The cops would have to be pretty god damned stupid to believe that. But I guess another staple of these movies is that the cops are always monumentally incompetent at their jobs. Tamara doesn’t actually show us this cliché, but having dialogue like this makes the cliché appear by proxy, so it’s no excuse.

"I'm supposed to be the heroine of the film but I let myself get swayed to cover up a murder in two seconds flat! Wow am I ever a failure!"

I also love how the one chick who is supposed to be “good” is swayed in like two sentences from this bully who she probably doesn’t even know that well – wonderful, movie; just wonderful. They bury Tamara alive outside and then, two seconds later, she pops up behind them all evil and stuff. She chases them around and kills them, but then it turns out to be a dream again. You know movie, you’re really not good at dream sequences.

A reality too stupid even for this movie...what an amazing accomplishment.

The next day at school, Tamara returns through her black magic bullshit, and makes that TV/audio kid kill himself by cutting off his ear, his tongue and then stabbing himself through the eye, on the morning announcements. It’s great how there were no teachers or supervisors around to make sure weird shit like this doesn’t happen, and even better that the school apparently doesn’t pay attention to what’s showing and doesn’t have a filter to just turn off the screen at times like this.

Now he's ready to audition for a Japanese horror movie!

But perhaps my favorite part of the whole thing is just their reaction to it later. After witnessing this incredibly bizarre and grotesque death scene, what do the other main characters have to say? “I can’t believe he killed himself.” Ha ha ha…yeah, THAT’S what’s unbelievable about what just happened. Not the fact that he did it in an insane way by mutilating himself and talking gibberish, though. That part’s normal.

There’s also some bullshit about how Tamara can now touch peoples’ cheeks and see their pasts, or something. Before she kills the nerdy kid, she “sees” that he tried to kill himself once. That could have been an interesting plot point, but does THIS movie elaborate on it? Nah. We have no time for human problems or character depth at all here. We’re too busy with scenes where Tamara makes the two guys have sex with each other to get revenge for humiliating her earlier:

Tamara, the only movie whose heroine can stand that close to two guys and turn them gay.

And to round out the complete disposability of this whole mess, we get some cheap tit shots when she makes the one girl bully take off her shirt. Women aren’t good for anything in movies except showing their tits, right?

Someone ought to just go all the way at this point, and make a movie with nothing but naked chicks running around getting killed off after a while...I guess Bikini Girls on Ice was close enough though.

So I guess that girl’s story is that she throws up in order to get a ‘perfect body’ for her boyfriend…the only reason this matters is because there was one line earlier about how she didn’t eat much. And even then, you wouldn’t catch that unless you were stupid enough to pay attention to this, like I was. Tamara’s power makes her start trying to eat her fingers – how deliciously stupid.


These “kill” scenes aren’t even scary at all, they’re more like comedy kills. Even the Nightmare on Elm Street movies at least had the dreamlike, surreal atmosphere. This is just the ass-hairs of the kind of pandering, low-brow minds that brought us gems like 5ive Girls. It’s not as bad as that, but trust me it is close. Very, uncomfortably, Sandusky-level close.

There’s some bullshit showdown at the hospital where Tamara chases everyone around and kills them. I love when the one random dude gets killed, the good girl cries over him like she knew him for years. Wasn’t he just some random kid who came up to them on the street at the beginning? Oh well. It’s not like her actually knowing him would make the scene any more poignant. It’s like trying to put a pretty pink ribbon on a pile of dog shit.

After that, we see them figuring out that they can’t kill Tamara, partly because of the “black magic,” but mostly because the script says so. The only way to kill her is for the teacher, Mr. Natolly, to throw himself off the building and kill both of them, since apparently, they are “linked together for eternity.” Yeah. Right. I can so totally tell – I mean I can literally see the passion in this movie’s creation, which shows me the doomed, romantic love between these two characters! It’s almost like…a fanfiction a 16 year old girl wrote about having a crush on her teacher.

Romantic maybe if you like Twilight...personally I think Texas Chainsaw was more romantic.

What a terrible ending! There was no build-up to it, no emotional connection…it’s just nonsensical crap that will oddly make you feel a tiny bit down afterwards because of how pointless it was. But wait – there’s actually even less sense to be made with the following scene, where it turns out the girl who bit her own fingers off is the new bad guy:

Oh no, she got possessed by Tamara, because that...wasn't ever how it actually worked before! Which means this movie is incompetent and has no idea how to tell a story! Shock and awe!

Aaaaaand that’s the end! Doesn’t make sense? You’re not alone.

This really is just a mess of a movie…when I said it was like a fanfiction by a girl with a crush on her teacher, that’s pretty much the best way to sum it up. It’s all so cutesy in its romanticization – “oh, my teacher is hot; better have us die together Romeo & Juliet style!” “Oh, people are mean to me; better make them one-dimensional bullies who resort to murder to solve their problems!” “Oh, I’m insecure; better turn the character into a Cordelia from the early Buffy seasons rip off!”

Yeah, it’s pretty bad. Just a quick PSA to finish this off: If you’re a high school student, you’re most likely generally dejected and lonely. You most likely have fantasies that are unrealistic and implausible. And you will inevitably write something creative to get out your frustrations and express yourself.

However, you must resist the pressure to revisit these cathartic writings years later and turn them into a movie. Just kill that impulse where it stands.

Remember Tamara.

Images copyright of their original owners, I do not own any of them.