New Horror Releases: TARNATION (2017) - Reviewed

Some movies take special preparation, like more popcorn for a longer stretch, or 3-D glasses for optimal viewing. TARNATION requires you to smoke a fatty before pressing ‘play’. Allow me to enlighten you.

This Ozploitation film by Melbourne-based director/ writer Daniel Armstrong, is his seventh as director, citing previous films such as Murderdrome (2013), Sheborg Massacre (2016) and Fight like a Girl (2015), among others. If you have seen any of his previous works, you should have a good idea what you are in for with TARNATION, yet it did not prepare me.

It revolves around Oscar, recently jilted by her boyfriend (and cat) and fired from her band. After a night of binge drinking – as all good ideas start - she heads to a remote cabin in the woods outside a ghost town called TARNATION with some friends. This is where our heroine is confronted by a demon unicorn that takes on a woman’s form from the neck down (smoke it up if you have it!). Said unicorn belongs to a high priest who wants to use Oscar’s blood to summon Satan. Of course!

Being filmed on a low budget, there is much to be excused in the production of TARNATION, but this does not justify awful dialogue, shameless rip-offs of one-liners from other films and terrible choices in wardrobe. Having said that, it is obvious that this film is an endearing homage to Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead franchise, perhaps a spoof of the iconic low budget masterpiece. Shall I call it a poor(er) man’s Evil Dead?

The soundtrack kicks ass, along with creative use of camera angles during the more rowdy scenes. Bright colors add to the surrealism of the nightmarish element of poor Oscar’s battle with the inadvertent demonic taunts of her former friends. However, continuity is completely dismissed as night/day shots feature together in scenes and there are no clear plot points to steer us toward the climax.

Tacky effects only play second fiddle to the terrible lighting that leaves the movie looking rather more like a school play than a story for an occult-flavored milieu. A bright spotlight is the only source of light for most scenes, whereas indoor scenes are equally lacking atmosphere. The latter sadly diminishes any probability of scares, which would have seriously complimented the make-up effects.

Throw that together with completely irrelevant quotes from Forrest Gump and Starship Troopers 3, and you have a confusing batch of surrealist tapestries that fail to accurately tell a story. Most reviews reckon TARNATION would have a cult following had it been an American production, but honestly, there is no palpable reason to even compare this film with the likes of Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead.

TARNATION is a mess of ill-placed cinematic dribble that cost a very original, good idea its glory.

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-Tasha Danzig