Originally destined for an unceremonious and immediate "direct-to-video" release, Tamara has earned its fair share of internet fanboy buzz earlier this year, thanks partially to the Lions Gate folks having their finger on the horror-geek pulse, but mainly because the lead actress is a stunningly sexy femme fatale who plays a murderous mega-witch super-bitch from beyond the graaaaave.
Penned by Final Destination scribe Jeffrey Reddick, Tamara is nothing more than Stephen King's (or, more specifically, Brian De Palma's) Carrie gussied up for a new generation of horror-lovin' moviegoers. As such, Tamara looks, sounds, and feels like just about every single "high school misfit wreaks unholy revenge" flick ever made, from Evilspeak to Christine and from Massacre at Central High to Laserblast -- with a few threads of I Know What You Did Last Summer tossed in to keep the horror geeks happy. (Basically: this one old-school horror concept.)
Dusted off and dressed up for a modern generation of inevitably sarcastic, dismissive, and angst-laden teenagers, Tamara works well enough for what it is ... which, admittedly, isn't all that much, but there's a spark of stylish creativity that runs through the flick, and it's one that the hardcore horror fans will come to enjoy -- even if it doesn't become one of their very favorite "under the radar" genre confections.
The plot's as simple as the recipe for peanut butter & jelly: A mousy, nerdly, and facially unpleasant nerdette earns some vicious bile from her school's "cool kids," mainly because she just penned a newspaper article about a steroids scandal that's shaken the school's athletic department. So the evil kids do what anyone would do after being fingered for steroid abuse: they trick the reporter into visiting a motel room and they videotape the gal getting naked and trying to seduce the English teacher she adores. Yikes.
Needless to say, things get out of control, poor Tamara ends up with a cracked-open skull; the half-dozen tormentors conspire to bury the fresh corpse and plan to behave like they didn't just cause the horrible death of a 17-year-old girl.
Fortunately for Tamara, she has a surprisingly powerful gift for the art of witchcraft, which allows her to not only attend school the day after her own murder, but to also wreak all sorts of gruesomely wonderful revenge on the bastards who done her wrong. And wreak she does.
Also for some reason, Tamara doesn't just wipe the dirt out of her hair and climb into a classroom. Nope, this re-animated demoness returns to school looking like she just fell out of a 60% off sale at Hot Topic. Frankly, the post-death version of Tamara is so damn sexy they could have called her movie Hellbait.
With this familiar (yet comfortably entertaining) concept now laid out, Mr. Reddick and director Jeremy Haft try to infuse a few jolts of freshness into a now-conventional concept. Tamara, you see, doesn't just want to kill her tormentors and woo the dreamy English teacher. No, she aims to have her tormentors terrorize, mutilate, and murder themselves ... and as far as that English teacher's pregnant young wife is concerned, well, let's just say Tamara's not a real big fan of the gal.
As relatively stylish on the surface as it is resoundingly familiar beneath, Tamara should prove more than serviceable enough for the hardcore horror fans, and while the flick lacks the original spin on an old concept that something like Lucky McKee's May exhibits, there's still just enough for the genre geeks to get behind for 90-some slick minutes.
Like many of its ilk, Tamara starts out somewhat slowly before picking up some pretty palpable steam as Act III gets a'rollin'. Exploitation aficionadoes will bemoan the lack of blatant T & A material, but the horror freaks will undoubtedly appreciate the intermittent gore-gushes and semi-creative kill scenes.
Video: It's a very clean and crisp anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) transfer. The flick might not be a visual masterpiece, but the color schemes and mood-lighting do their job fairly well.
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo with optional Spanish subtitles. Audio quality is perfectly serviceable, if not all that stunning. The handful of sound-intensive "jolt" moments come through loud and clear.
Director Jeremy Haft and screenwriter Jeffrey Reddick contribute a rather entertaining audio commentary in which a lot of behind-the-scenes information is doled out with good humor and a welcome sense of self-deprecation. The guys seem to have set out to made a modernized version of Carrie, and they seem suitably pleased with the final product. They both seem to agree that the flick was put together with too little money and too little time -- although the flick hides its seams fairly well.
Also included are a pair of trailers for Odd Girl Out and Hostel.
Plus there's the Jenna Dewan factor; the newcomer nails the title role with a visible sense of enjoyment. She's sinfully sexy, painfully pissed, and absolutely mercenary when it comes to dishing out the revenge. The gal's performance single-handedly elevates Tamara from something lightweight-yet-watchable into a horror geek's must-rent feature.
(Portions of this review have been reprinted from a review at eFilmCritic.com, because they were both written by the same guy.)