Tar

*1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Tar
"The office setting means that we spend most of the film inside small white-walled room with no sense of place and only these cardboard characters to entertain us."

A legendary monster from a long forsaken pit. A modern city with no idea of the terror hidden in its midst. A construction company about to go digging where nobody should dig. It should be easy to make an entertaining film out of this, even with very little money and an amateur cast. The singular failure of this team to do so is almost worthy of notice in itself.

As long as one doesn't have to clean up afterwards, tar is a wonderful substance to work with. Its slow creep makes it inherently more sinister than water or blood, it can ooze under doors, it can stick to people and objects can be pushed up underneath it so that it appears to take form. Director Aaron Wolf makes surprisingly little use of this potential, treating it more like an acid. His monster is fairly good for a man in a suit and he wisely avoids showing it too often full on, but there's just not enough creature-based action for the 96 minute running time, and not enough else going on to hold viewer attention.

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Most of the actors are not awful; they just have very little to work with. Though the promotional material implies that we will see the tar monster attack the city, in fact all we see is it attacking the construction company's offices, and it takes its time to do that. The hero has the usual conflict with his father, not wanting to take over the family business, and his girlfriend just happens to be visiting, providing him with someone else to worry about. She has very little agency of her own. Elsewhere the film is peopled with stock characters, from the deferential intern to the useless guy obsessed with his co-worker's breasts (to be fair to him, they are among very few good reasons to keep looking at the screen).

The office setting means that we spend most of the film inside small white-walled room with no sense of place and only these cardboard characters to entertain us. More interesting subterranean spaces are only briefly explored and despite the lengthy exposition at the start of the film (made more palatable by framing it as a story for tourists), we get little real sense of the monster's raison d'ĂȘtre, little feel for what it represents. There's no sense of any greater meaning beyond the immediate struggle, and office workers armed with plastic furniture versus monster with supernatural powers is a not a struggle that has much to offer.

Is the film bad enough - or inherently silly enough - to be funny? Not if you're sober. This one is destined for the bottom of the bargain bin, where it will probably get stuck.

Reviewed on: 16 Oct 2020
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Tar packshot
A mysterious creature rises from the depths of the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles to threaten local residents.

Director: Aaron Wolf

Writer: Timothy Nuttall, Aaron Wolf

Starring: Timothy Bottoms, Graham Greene, Aaron Wolf, Emily Peachey, Max Perlich, Nicole Alexandra Shipley

Year: 2020

Runtime: 96 minutes

Country: US

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