Sony // 2007 // 89 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // June 27th, 2008
Evil in ink.
From New Zealand, a horror import that eschews the tongue-in-cheek bloodletting I've come to expect from the Kiwis and dives full-bore into straight terror.
Jake Sawyer (Jason Behr) is an accomplished tattooist, a gifted artist who can paint works of art on people's flesh. He's intrigued by the artistry of some Samoans, who obviously take their craft seriously -- so seriously, that it's a belief system that has the potential for some funky @#$% to go down if misused. Unaware of the bad mojo that could befall a rookie, Jake swipes one of their cursed instruments, accidentally cuts himself and that's when the nightmare begins.
Everyone he's tattooed suddenly die horrible, messy, ink-drenched deaths and Jake will have to beat the clock to corral the evil he's unleashed and prevent it from claiming the life of his girlfriend.
It takes a while to get rolling, but when The Tattoist hits its stride, it becomes a frantic, messy, nasty little horror flick and is worth checking out.
Then again maybe it appeals to me because the prospect of getting a tattoo makes my toes curl in discomfort like a neurotic toddler. Yeah, I suppose I'm a wimp and all, but the idea of a needle permanently and painfully imprinting ink on my skin kind of creeps me out. And that's not even considering the emotional horror I can envision a nursing home LNA suffering through after seeing the sagging, wrinkled remnants of said tattoo desperately clinging to my sallow flesh fifty years down the line.
The Tattooist taps into that dread marvelously, with the victims being dispatched amid pools of ink and blood, their flesh carved and cratered with tattoo ink. And there's lots of screaming and carrying-on while they slip from this world into the next. Good make-up work and decent CGI combine to bring these kills to life, all of which are executed with effective violence.
But what makes the film more compelling than most horror offerings is the story, a supernatural mystery that actually entertains and delivers a rewarding reveal and pay-off, despite the obligatory, hamfisted knocks on the Christian church. Still, the questions that linger right up until the finale make for an engrossing whodunit. The use of the Samoan tattoo culture (if you think a tramp stamp is uncomfortable get a load of how these guys roll) and the honor and shame attached to the rites of passage is a deft touch, giving the film a cool multicultural angle.
Jason Behr is good here, laid back and low key, but intense when things get crazy towards the end. He juices up his performance when his lady friend is threatened by the evil tattoo demon, selling the desperation. Unfortunately, he gets caught in the middle of a pacing slowdown right before the denouement when some bulky exposition is revealed, but it's not enough to deep-six his work, or the film as a whole.
Sony's issued a fine disc. The picture quality (1.78:1 anamorphic) is very strong and the 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks (English and French) are active. Lots of quality extras, too: a commentary from director Peter Burger and Jason Behr, deleted scenes, five behind-the-scenes featurettes and a digital copy.
While slow in some places, The Tattooist is well-executed, smart, and mildly upsetting -- a decent time to be had.
Not guilty. Going with "Tat's all folks" is a mistake, right?
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes
* Digital Copy