Every so often, you see a horror movie that grabs you from the beginning, and leaves you completely satisfied by the ending. Tar is not even close to that movie. Instead, the film delivers weak effects, dreadful acting, and a scrawny plot with minimal scares.
It’s hard to describe the exact plot of this movie, but here it goes: Tar revolves around a young man named Zach—played by director Aaron Wolf—his father, and his close friends as they are trying to clean out an office building before 6 AM. Suddenly, the power mysteriously goes out and they encounter a monster before fighting for their lives. There is some plot development that tells us that this villain lives in tar surrounding the Los Angeles La Brea tar pits. The movie also claims that humans built Los Angeles over a larger area of tar, and this beast emerges when there is too much noise or disruption above the ground.
The fact that the characters have to clean out an office by 6 AM is well established, and yet we watch them frustratingly slack off and sit around instead for an extended period of time. Two characters try to have sex multiple times while drinking a warm martini out of a shaker. Another character kicks his feet back and listens to records while drinking liquor. All of this happens while they should all be packing and removing boxes with only hours to spare. While a small issue, it’s still ridiculous and annoying to watch.
Between the dialogue, line delivery, and the way some of the characters are dressed, the entire movie feels like porn minus the nudity. A particular eight-minute section within the first 30 minutes of the film delivers laughs with how dreadful it is. This same scene may lead viewers to wonder if the actors are going to strip at any moment due to the lackluster acting and excessive sexual elements.
None of the actors are remarkable in this film. Some of the worst acting comes from Timothy Bottoms who plays Zach’s father Barry, and Stuart Stone who plays Sebastian. Bottoms boasts a long career that began in 1971 with Johnny Got His Gun alongside a young Donald Sutherland. Stone has also had a long acting career, including a part in the memorable movie Donnie Darko. Despite their extensive careers, scenes that feature these two actors talking drag along and offer laughable drama.
Tar also showcases a potentially racist depiction of a knowledgeable, homeless Native American man played by Graham Greene. While Greene is Native American in reality, the accent he layers on feels hokey and offensive. Also, the trope of a wise Native American explaining an old legend to a bunch of white folks is unacceptable for 2020 films.
Aaron Wolf has directed, written and starred in numerous short films, feature films, and documentaries. Wolf also owns Howling Wolf Productions. Some of his previous works include the short Guest House, the documentary Restoring Tomorrow, and talk show The Together Show. While developing an impressive and diverse resume, this movie is not one of Wolf’s bright spots.
Clocking in at only 92 minutes without credits, the movie feels agonizingly drawn out. This is probably due to the stabs at character development that last too long. By the end of these sequences, spectators still aren’t connected to the characters, and relationships between them are meager.
The creature terrorizing the group is not shown until the 69-minute mark. There are shots of its shadow as well as shots taken from the point of view of the beast leading up to the final reveal. However, by the time you actually see it, curiosity is all but disappeared. One of the movie’s many continuity errors arises when you see things from what you can assume is the monster’s point of view through two eyeholes. Later, it is established that it only has one eye.
The one positive to come from this movie is that the appearance of the tar monster is impressive. It is obvious that time was spent attempting to make the beast look inhuman and they succeed in this respect. While still not necessarily scary, it appears to be an otherworldly creature that is far from a man in a costume.
If you want to experience Tar, look out for it in drive-in theatres beginning October 2nd, and video on demand beginning October 20th.