It’s been a while since I’ve seen one, but here we are again with another lil’ horror goodie from the Philippines, “Tarot”. Fortune telling…. ghosts…. weird doomsday cults… evil curses… and romance, sigh. Yep, certainly sounds like a “Nekolishous” film alright.
Our Synopsis? “As a young child Cara has the habit of observing her grandmother, Lola Auring (Gloria Romero) at work. She is a tarot reader by profession, and her granddaughter slowly develops her talent and accurately predicted the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 and the death of two of her family members; her father and grandmother. Cara’s psychic ability seems to bring bad luck to her family rather than good luck.
Concerned with her natural ability to predict future events, Cara’s mother (Susan Africa) forbids her to read tarot cards, and the cards are laid to rest with her grandmother inside the coffin. Many years later the adult Cara (Marian Rivera) has to reopen her grandmother’s coffin to seek the tarot cards’ help to locate her missing fiancé, Miguel (Dennis Trillo) when both were separated while hiking in the forest.
She eventually finds him, but mysterious deaths start to affect people around her. Cara soon learns that it was related to the curse on her grandmother during her youth days, where she was part of a cult that worshiped tarot cards. Other members committed suicide and Auring decided not to join them, and the curse spreads to his family members including Cara herself. Now Cara must find a way to stop this curse before more people becomes the victim…”
Mmmmmm. I’ve a really good feelin’ about this one, but you know as much as I do that sometimes your Favorite Catgirl gets her hopes up too quickly for these. Still…. can’t hurt to take a peek, right? Let’s all snuggle down and I’ll tell you all how this one stacked up. By all means, gentle visitor, “Read On”!!
This is one of those Philippine horror films that Film studio, Regal Entertainment, cranks out for their domestic film market. Luckily, these usually have some fairly good production values as well as a few good directors and name actors to draw on. “Tarot” stars two of them, Marion Rivera as Cara and Dennis Trillo as her love interest and boyfriend. Director Jun Lana also did “Kulam”, previously reviewed here at the ol’ Litterbox, and even though that was a simple story I did enjoy it. With all these things going for it, “Tarot” definitely sounds like it could just turn out to be a pleasant lil’ horror film experience for me full of creepy chills and exotic ghosts and folklore.
As we start our film, we get introduced to Cara as a child (played by Nikki Samonte). She’s cute, adorable, and “blessed” (or perhaps cursed) with the same innate gifts of fortunetelling as her beloved grandmother. Despite her unbelieving parents, she foretells of “snow” falling in sunny Manila…. a prediction which comes true in it’s own way during the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo and the resulting ash-fall that comes along with it. Her shaken mother forbids grandma from teaching her anymore of her “superstitions” and tells her she wants only that Cara forget the cards and grow up to be just a “normal girl”. Grandmother Auring (played by Gloria Romero) tries to tell her it doesn’t work that way… that the gift will simply grow on it’s own anyway, but Cara’s mother is firm. No fortunetelling for her daughter…..
But… the cards keep calling to Cara, wanting to show her the future… and not always a good future. One day, while playing hide-and-seek with her friends, Cara has the opportunity to see Grandma’s cards again. This time, they show her tragedy…. The death of two of her family members is soon at hand. In tears, Cara tries to warn Grandmother about what she’s been shown, but only moments later her prediction comes terribly true… her uncle struck by a stray bullet fired during a celebration…. and then Grandmother Auring herself falls to a heart attack brought on by this event. Cara’s mother… angry, scared, and determined to end what she sees as a curse, has her mother’s tarot deck buried with her, hoping to put those cards forever beyond little Cara’s reach. Does it succeed? Well, now…… we wouldn’t have much of a movie if it did.
We jump ahead, and Cara grows up to become a lovely young woman (now played by Marion Rivera), with a handsome boyfriend Miguel (played by Dennis Trillo) and seemingly not a trouble in the world. Well… maybe one, tiny, lil’ trouble. They’re lost you see…. on a hiking day trip, separated from their friends they end up spending an evening in an old cave waiting to be eventually found. But…. during the night, Miguel goes mysteriously missing. Her friends find a frantic Cara the next morning, but there is no sign of Miguel… it’s as if he dropped right off the face of the earth. Even the expert forest guides are at a loss to find a single trace…. leaving Cara to fall deeper and deeper into depression, unable to accept that he is just… gone.
Eventually she’s driven almost to suicide over his loss, but then decides to do the unthinkable…. despite her mother’s objections she has her grandmother exhumed so that she can retrieve her “special” tarot cards and use those to help her locate Miguel. Given her uncanny clairvoyant connection to the cards, it isn’t long before she locates him, in the hut of a mountain hermit where he’s been since he fell into a boar trap weeks before. He’s hurt, but alive, and it seems that with some medical assistance should recover just fine. Good news.. right? Ummmm…. horror movie remember?
Yep… first thing out and poor Miguel starts getting haunted by a mysterious ghostly spirit of a woman in a veil….. who obviously means him no bit of good. Seems that poor Cara didn’t know that those special Tarot cards were cursed you see…. Grandma Auring stole them from the leader of a secretive doomsday cult she was a member of years earlier, and now the spirit of those cards will seek revenge on her by killing all those close to her unless she can prevent a death from happening and thus breaking the curse. Dang…… isn’t there’s always a catch to neat supernatural powers…..?
The rest of the movie follows as old friends of her grandmother keep popping up to provide her with tantalizing hints about that cult and it’s leader, the sinister sounding “El Senior” (usually right before they get killed)… who turns out to be…… (Wait for it…)…. her grandfather!! Gasp!! Seems Grandma Auring left him after he prophesied the “End of the World” and figured he’d “save” his followers by ordering them to commit mass suicide. Wow…. no wonder she left. Ahhh… and it seems the ghosts of those cultists still haunt the very forest were she and Miguel were camping…. and they’re the ones who chased him into that ol’ boar pit.
Our “Veiled Spirit of the Death Card” meanwhile has it’s own dance card pretty full, first killing Cara’s mom Diana… then Grandmother’s old friend Lola Nena, threatening Cara’s best friend Faye (played by Roxanne Guinoo), before striking at Miguel’s sister Connie and nearly causing her to miscarry her baby. Definitely one mean ghost….. Seems like there is just no way to avoid it’s terrible revenge. So how can this all be resolved?
Ahhhh…. but that’s not all the really bad stuff to come. It’s “Spoiler Time” folks…. as Neko wouldn’t want to ruin the suspense for you. Taking a page from Indonesian films…. “Tarot” decides that poor Cara needs to find out that her beloved fiancé and her best friend have had a one time fling that has resulted in a pregnancy….. making her feel betrayed and hurt by the two people she trusts more than anyone else. Oh…. and mysterious Grandfather “El Senior”…. ummm…. well… he’s not exactly dead you see…. having chickened out at the last minute when the cult all cut their throats all those years ago. Oh yeah…. that’s gonna complicate the ending. Let’s just say Cara isn’t gonna be happy with how it turns out.
It’s not really as complicated as it sounds…. and comes to a satisfactory conclusion though. Neko liked “Tarot” overall…. and I can give it a good 3 “Meows” out of 5. While not perhaps the most original screenplay ever done, it does the job of entertaining one for an evening of scares and chills. That’s what this movie lovin’ Catgirl is lookin’ for, and in this, it delivers. I may have seen better horror films, but I can tell you, I’ve certainly seen far worse too. Like most Philippine horror movies, it’s not particularly gory or extreme, but that’s a nice thing now and again. The Region Free DVD is well produced, with a letterboxed image and excellent, accurate English subtitles. About the only problem I can report is that like most others from the Philippines, it comes with a long series of “User Prohibited” trailers and ads that have to be watched before you are allowed to access the menu and get on with the movie…. soooo annoying, but forgivable especially since I usually watch all the Trailers on a disc anyway. But… for a 15$-20$ US price-tag, you really can’t complain too much.
Yep…. there’s a Trailer of course, and here it is! Enjoy.