If you come across an Ouija board or a stray tarot deck, it’s a consensus that you should leave it alone. Nothing good could come from trying to conjure up something for the thrill of it. But the rules don’t apply to a few college friends staying at an Airbnb for a birthday party in ‘Tarot.’ The co-writing and directing team of Spenser Cohen and Anna Halberg immediately drop you into the crux of the issue with a small inkling of emotionality that looks to tie a lot of often-seen horror thematic beats together. Right from the onset, you know what you’re getting from the obvious signs of danger and the sometimes over-explanation from characters about what they are facing. There’s usually one person above all in the know on an island until death literally comes knocking on their door. 

The scene is an old mansion in upstate New York (which, I’ll say, is a great Airbnb find) where a group has gotten together to celebrate Elise’s (Larsen Thompson) birthday. Unfortunately, they run out of alcohol, and the location isn’t exactly where you can call for delivery or drive to the nearest liquor store. Upon searching the house, they see a door that explicitly tells them to stay away. In the first of many glaringly wrong decisions, they ignore the warning and head down to the basementwhere it becomes apparent the owner is into the occult and astrology. From there, they come across a wooden box with a pentagram that contains a tarot deck. Haley (Harriet Slater) is the guide as she can decipher and interpret the cards but disregards her own warnings. For starters, you’re not supposed to use someone else’s deck, and the hand-drawn cards are all ominous and creepy. But the friends need something to do, and Haley gives everybody a reading based on their zodiac signs. Everything seems great until the seven young adults return to college in Boston. On the same night, one of them dies due to brutal consequences and, thus, becomes a Final Destination-like race against time to stop the evil before it takes everybody out individually.


Cohen and Halberg try to provide some anchor to ensure the film isn’t just a complete cycle of somebody dying and then eventually coming across the potential solution through a Google search. A lot of that falls on Haley’s character, who has a specific backstory as to why she got into tarot due to her mother dying from an illness. She also recently broke up with Grant (Adain Bradley), and ‘Tarot’ tries to play around with the theme of fate and being unable to change it. The problem is that it is done to the maximum in a film franchise it references. Nicholas Adams’s 1992 novel “Horrorscope,” on which this film is loosely based, had a more practical explanation of why the body count piles up. Here, the tarot deck is a conduit of a centuries-long play of atonement by an astrologer (Suncica Milanovic) who engaged in dark magic to atone for her daughter being murdered. Once the characters figure out what is going on and through the methods of repeating Haley’s readings as they get picked off, you understand what will happen. However, the tarot doesn’t seem to trust that you know, and its characters continually reiterate what will happen. 

 Jacob Batalon, as the energetic Paxton, brings some movement to a plot that goes where you expect it to. Otherwise, everybody plays their respective roles to a tee— there’s always a skeptic in the group, the planner (you get the point). Eventually, they must find someone who knows what is happening and how to impede the cycle. That comes from Alma (Olwen Fouéré), who has been searching for the tarot deck for years because her friends died similarly. Aside from many jump scares that vary in effectiveness, the creature design is reminiscent of what you would see in the Insidious films–regarding the look and the mannerisms.


While their entry tends to liven up ‘Tarot’ at points, you can’t help but notice that much of this is happening within a vacuum. Other than a brief questioning by the police, the seven main characters are left to their own devices at a college that doesn’t seem to have any other students in attendance. Ultimately, you are given a 90-minute crash course on what to expect when cursed. ‘Tarot’ hints that you can take the wheel and turn the outcome of the stars, but chooses to travel down a much-beaten path of horror.