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Awesome: 6.25%
Worth A Look43.75%
Just Average43.75%
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2 reviews, 4 user ratings

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by Peter Sobczynski

"I love ya, Tamara! Now put down that axe."
4 stars

Even though I have seen more than enough crappy horror films to last me a lifetime and beyond, there is always a small part of me that gets giddy whenever I settle in my seat to watch a new one. Granted, most of them are pretty atrocious–especially the majority of those in this current genre mini-boom–but every once in a while, you luck out and stumble upon one that actually turns out to be better than anticipated. Since most critics tend to dismiss such films as junk without even giving them a fair shake, a sight of a genuinely effective one–I’m thinking of such personal favorites as “May” or the ultra-obscure “Mirror Mirror”–can give a dedicated film fan the kind of happy thrill of discovery that is enough to sustain them through any number of idiotic clones, remakes and rip-offs.

Which brings us to “Tamara,” a low-budget shocker that is slinking into a few theaters, no doubt to fulfill some contractual obligation for its upcoming DVD release. It isn’t a great movie by even the most forgiving standards–it is crudely made, often ridiculous and the entire plot has been constructed from spare parts taken from better-known works. And yet, it has a certain spark, humor and energy to it that does come across–it may not be a great film but it has been made by people who don’t know that for a fact. The end result is a work that may not be a buried treasure along the lines of “May” but I would definitely take it over the likes of the “Saw” and “Final Destination” franchises in a heartbeat.

Newcomer Jenna Dewan stars as Tamara, a put-upon outcast at her cliquish high school who is derided by one and all for looking like a mousy dweeb–of course, like most such films, the “dweeb” is approximately 47 times more gorgeous than anyone who went to your high school and has a killer body that is unsuccessfully hidden by baggy sweatshirts and overalls. (For proof, please do a Google image search on her name and see for yourself.) After writing an expose in her school paper about steroid abuse among the members of the football team, a couple of evil jocks decide to teach her a lesson. Using her crush on hunky English teacher Mr. Natolly (Matthew Marsden) as a hook, they, along with the class slut, the class AV geek, the goofy newcomer and Chloe (Katie Stuart), Tamara’s unwitting only friend, lure Tamara out to the local hot sheet motel to videotape her stripping (and proving that my observation in the first sentence of this paragraph was accurate) for a presumed assignation. Things go horribly wrong, of course, and Tamara winds up dead. The jocks, finally realizing that they might have gone a bit too far, decide to bury her body in the woods and the others, too cowed to go to the police, help cover up the crime.

Therefore, it is a bit disconcerting for them when they attend class the next day and Tamara not only walks into class but has received a eye-poppingly sexy make-over that makes her look less like Denise Richards’ slightly dowdier sister and more like Denise Richards’ much hotter sister. Before they can ponder this resurrection too much, the geek commits suicide in front of the entire school in a manner that can only be described as the goriest possible version of the old Nairobi Trio bit from the old Ernie Kovacs show. The others figure that he killed himself out of guilt but it turns out that Tamara has indeed returned from the grave and now has the power to read minds and to force those who have hurt her to both feel her pain and do her bidding, much of which revolves around offing themselves or each other in various gruesome and ironic ways. The anorexic girl, for example, becomes a virtual eating machine and Tamara’s alcoholic and sexually abusive father is killed in a manner that is ugly and painful, true, but still possibly preferable to sitting around drinking Miller Genuine Draft. What Tamara really wants, however, is her beloved teacher all to herself and will stop anyone who gets in her way, especially the teacher’s hapless wife.

Yes, the film is another one of those exercises in which the hapless and harassed wreak bloody havoc on their tormentors, a sub-genre that ranges from the high-water marks of “Carrie” and “May” to the adequate likes of “The Craft” to such nonsense as “976-EVIL” and “The Rage: Carrie 2.” While it never comes close to being a top-shelf item, “Tamara” is a pretty good riff on the familiar elements. The scenes of mayhem are staged with some flair and wit and most of them cannily exploit the kind of hot button anxieties that teens will be able to relate to; the nasty anorexic is driven to vomit in quantities not seen since my single attempt to eat a burger from Culvers while the two jocks are hypnotized into a extremely compromising situation . And while much of the material is inherently silly and nonsensical, director Jeremy Haft and screenwriter Jeffrey Reddick plow through them with an attitude just over-the-top enough to suggest that they are in on the joke without making things too ludicrous.

What really separates this film from junk like “Hostel,” “Final Destination 3" and their ilk and puts it closer in line with “Carrie” and “May” is that the filmmakers have remembered to give us a central character that we actually vaguely give a damn about. Much of this is due to the charismatic and full-throttle performance from relative newcomer Jenna Dewan as Tamara. While she is not particularly convincing as a wallflower (she is about as successful at looking mousy as Michelle Pfeiffer was in the opening scenes of “Batman Returns”), she does manage to come off as reasonably touching and sympathetic in those early scenes and is a sexy hoot in her post-transformation incarnation in which she struts around in a blood-red gown (which only get bloodier and redder) in a manner that is half-mad slasher and half-Victoria’s Secret model.

Look, there are plenty of smart and intelligent films currently in release–“Cache,” “Bubble,” “The New World,” “Neil Young: Heart of Gold” and “Match Point” immediately spring to mind–that you should see before even contemplating attending the likes of “Tamara.” However, while it may not achieve the lofty heights of those films, it nevertheless works, in its own crudely efficient way, as well as any pure pulp entertainment I’ve seen lately. It is an honorable stab at a relatively dishonorable genre and is approximately twice as good as anyone might reasonably expect it to be.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=13779&reviewer=389
originally posted: 02/17/06 00:01:19
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User Comments

5/09/08 cody tamara is rough around edges will good suspense ,decent acting , and knockout girl. 3 stars
12/28/06 David Pollastrini not great, not terrible 4 stars
12/10/06 Spaulding LIpsey What a cool movie. Sexy and scary. Great kills! 5 stars
6/22/06 TempLoop Should've been more of a standard revenge film, the mind control stuff is mostly dull 2 stars
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  03-Feb-2006 (R)
  DVD: 09-May-2006



Directed by
  Jeremy Haft

Written by
  Jeffrey Reddick

  Jenna Dewan
  Katie Stuart
  Matthew Marsden
  Chad Faust
  Gil Hacohen
  Claudette Mink

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