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31 Days of Halloween

‘Tar’ review: A sticky situation

A good movie is in there…somewhere.

Welcome to another installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be sharing various pieces of underappreciated scary books, comics, movies, and television to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.

Listen to the latest episode of our weekly movies podcast, Adventures in Movies!

Tar is something of a throwback to previous decades. A creature feature about a monster disturbed by a community’s decision to keep expanding is a familiar premise. The fact that the protagonist’s struggling family business has been usurped to make room for another KFC adds to the social commentary. The movie is much simpler than it sounds, however.

The characters are paper thin. Horror movies are known for their stock characters, so much so that it is the stuff of jokes and parodies. Tar has the expected characters: horny annoying guy, the hot chick, and evil property owner all make an appearance. There is nothing outwardly wrong with this and it can even be comforting.

It does not really work in Tar since the script never seems to know how seriously it wants to take itself. At some moments, it seems to be a self referential mocking of the genre. Later, it will unironically do the things it was just making fun of. It is definitely funny, but it is not the type of laughs director and star Aaron Wolf was probably intending for his film.

Pacing is also an issue with the movie. The film spends a surprising amount of time setting up the reveal of the titular monster. There are two interrupted sex scenes and a number of flashbacks to pad the time. It works; the movie runs over an hour and a half. But it feels like every bit of it and more. This also builds anticipation that Tar is unable to live up to. 

The film does have a lot of promise. Creature features are a staple of horror from its earliest days. Tar also has two classic villains: the actual monster itself and selfish rich people. These are the kinds of bad guys audiences can easily root against. The La Brea Tar Pits is also a somewhat unique location. The movie had all the ingredients for a fun monster movie.

'Tar' review: A sticky situation

Tar also managed to bring some big names to the project. Grahame Green and Tiffany Shepis do about as well as can be expected with their roles. It si with these actors that the movie most seem like it was probably intended to be. The downside is they highlight how the leads are not as up to par. It is a no win situation for Wolf.

Many horror movies are meant to be enjoyed for how silly and nonsensical they are. Being bad is a claim to fame for some films. Tar resides in the purgatory of not so bad it is good, but not being awful enough to be offensive. The things it does right are trite and end up being moot. Ultimately, the whole thing ends up being unmemorable.

Tar will be available on VOD October 20.

Where have all the gothic horror movies gone?

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