Tarnation (2017) starring Daisy Masterman, Emma-Louise Wilson and Sean McIntyre. Directed by Daniel Armstrong.
Some of my favourite horror comes out of Australia and New Zealand, with movies like Bad Taste, Body Melt, Dead Alive, Dead End Drive-In and Howling III being staples in my viewing repertoire. So when I came across 2017’s Tarnation (not to be confused with Jonathan Caouette’s 2003 documentary) I knew I was getting some good old fashioned, low-budget, practical effects horror goodness.
Tarnation is director Daniel Armstrong’s love letter to The Evil Dead, but with some weird, trippy shit thrown in for good measure. The movie starts out with a girl escaping the clutches of a Satanic cult from a very Evil Dead like cabin only to get killed by a demonic unicorn. We then shift to our heroine Oscar, getting fired as the singer of her heavy metal band only to get home and find her boyfriend has left her and cleared out the apartment. After a night of getting drunk her friend suggests they go to a cabin in the woods with some friends to help her start over.
Surprise, surprise, turns out it’s the same cabin that has been used by the satanic unicorn cult and things go downhill quickly as various people get possessed in true Deadite fashion. There’s lots of goodness in this film, a giant maggot crawls out of a guy’s dick, a couple screwing get swallowed by a killer carpet, an angel with a unicorn’s head flies around in true Power Rangers style, there’s a boxing match with a zombie kangaroo, a rap battle between Oscar and Satan and a weird hybrid mix of Belial from Basket Case and the spider head from The Thing crawling all over the place.
If that wasn’t weird enough, we have these bizarre dream sequences involving band auditions and crucifixions, and there’s a weird alternate universe going on inside a picture hanging on the wall, with characters jumping in and out of universes throughout the movie.
Tarnation wears its influence on its sleeve, like literally – the cabin is festooned with Evil Dead posters and our heroine even resorts to using a chainsaw to despatch the demonic unicorn.
What Tarnation is giving you is 80 minutes of blood soaked, low budget shlock with a story that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, with the fearless director happy to throw everything at the wall and just stand back to see what sticks. I fucking love these kinds of movies.
Ultimately, you’re either going to love or hate this movie. It’s cheap as fuck and has that style of humour that you either find totally funny or totally irritating. I really loved it.
Steve Barnard lurks in the Stygian swamps of South America. He divides his time between scouring ancient jungles for the lost City of the Monkey Children and watching horror movies. Literally any horror movie he can get his hands on. Especially Japanese ones.