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Tamara (2005)

Starring Matthew Marsden, Jenna Dewan, Chad Faust, Gil Hacohen, Claudette Mink, and Melissa Elias

Directed by Jeremy Haft

Released by Lionsgate Films


High school can really suck. Especially if you’re the odd man, or in this case the odd woman, out. Your classmates can and will pick on you, slander you, and just generally make every second of your life a living hell for the few short years that you have to be there. Why? Because you do not adhere to their acceptable ideals. Horror fans know all too well what it’s like to be treated kind of funny by the rest of the world. All too often we’ve been privy to strange looks from strangers for wearing our favorite Rotten Cotton T-shirts or publicly professing our love for all things dark and creepy. They say we’re not normal. I say screw them and what their conception of normalcy is. These are the types of things we’re faced with almost every day. So who better to deal with our pesky routine trials and tribulations than one wickedly evil living dead girl?

We’re introduced to Tamara as she is busily readying one of her many spells. She’s a practicing witch (or at least is trying to be) but unfortunately lacks the drive and courage to truly hone her craft so to speak. In typical geek fashion she is all brains and no brawn, thus making her an extremely easy target at school. Things go from bad to worse in a hurry for our out-of-place protagonist when she manages to raise the ire of two local jocks and their friends after the school rag publishes her article about their use of performance enhancing drugs. OK, maybe she’s not that smart. Talk about social suicide. It’s not long before revenge is sought. A group of students decides to hit Tamara where it really hurts — her crush on one of her teachers. Posing as her love interest, one of the jocks invites Tamara to a local motel for some late night private lessons. Instead of a crash course in adolescent lust, what she gets is a lesson in stinging cruelty. Things get way out of hand in a truly intense scene that ends in bloodshed, death, and of course the obligatory “I don’t wanna go to jail” inspired secret burial. It’s a good thing that Tamara had that whole witchcraft thing going on because it’s not long as before she makes her return from the beyond, but not as her old self. Hell, not even as a rotting corpse. What comes back is a vengeful and seductive bloodthirsty bitch!

Here’s where I got a little nervous. Up until now things were moving along at a nice steady and quite nasty pace. Things were either going to fly or severely crash and burn. I am happy to say that Tamara has long, sleek, razor-sharp wings that serve to swoop in on the viewer while enveloping them in their darkness. With screen scribe Jeffrey Reddick of Final Destination fame turning out the pages, the one thing you can bet on is that this film will have some truly wince inducing death scenes. Rest assured there are plenty to go around, including a bile spraying nod to the vomit sequence in Lucio Fulci’s zombie splatter classic City of the Living Dead a.k.a. The Gates of Hell. Thankfully the gore effects rely more on practical appliances and less on CGI. Gore always seems a bit more extreme when you can tell it’s not drawn on. Very good stuff.

It isn’t just the script and the effects that contribute to making Tamara a memorable viewing experience either. The performance turned in by its star and title character Jenna Dewan is truly top notch. To call her versatile would be an understatement as she essentially plays two roles in the film. The two sides of Tamara couldn’t be more different, and Dewan swings effortlessly back and forth between cold fish and white hot. Horny horror fans around the world will be happy to know that she spends the majority of her screen time developing a new scantily clad and deliciously wicked horror icon. As my esteemed cohort Johnny Butane mentioned in a news item about this film, “Don’t piss off Tamara!

The film is not without its faults though as things veer dangerously close into the realm of the ridiculous in the film’s third act. Ever since 1981’s Halloween II there has been a question nagging me that will probably become one of cinema’s greatest mysteries. That question is: If you’re going to have a public hospital as one of your main set pieces, shouldn’t there be people working in it? I mean, honestly, can’t we at least see a wino roaming a hallway looking for a place to take a quick piss!? Characters roam floors, wreak havoc through kitchens, run around on stairways, crash the roof; yet, all the while there isn’t a single staff member to be seen anywhere. Hell, throw some white coats on your film crew and just have them mill about in the background as extras for chrissakes! While this can be very distracting at times, it thankfully never really takes you out of the movie.

All in all Tamara is a well crafted, solid little film that will thrill you, chill you, and at times make your skin crawl. Lionsgate has seen fit to rescue this little gem from direct-to-video hell by treating it to a limited theatrical release. After suffering through mind-numbing drivel like Cry_Wolf and the abysmal Fog remake, genre audiences can really use a quick pick-me-up like this. My advice? Should Tamara pay a visit to your city or town, go and check her out. Be warned: She doesn’t like to be kept waiting. Rock on, oh evil one. Let your freak flag fly!

3 ½ out of 5

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