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Behind the Cards: TAROT Directors Spill on Practical Effects and Iconic Kills

A woman looks out her car window where she sees a drawing of the hang man on the window mist
Humberly González “Madeline” in Screen Gems TAROT | Image Courtesy of Screen Gems

By Shannon McGrew

In TAROT, from directors Anna Halberg and Spenser Cohen, a group of friends recklessly violates the sacred rule of Tarot readings and unknowingly unleash an unspeakable evil trapped within the cursed cards. One by one, they come face to face with fate and end up in a race against death.

For the upcoming release of TAROT, Creepy Kingdom's Shannon McGrew spoke with co-directors Anna Halberg and Spenser Cohen. During their chat, they discussed everything from how James Wan and Steven Spielberg influenced their approach to the film, the process of practical creature design, and more.

Thank you both for speaking with me today! To start things off, can you discuss the origins of this project?

Anna Halberg: Sony came to us wanting to make a horror movie about astrology, but there's nothing that's inherently scary to us about horoscope signs and zodiacs. But what is scary to us are tarot cards and tarot readings. We thought of combining the two and came back with this original concept that became TAROT.

I enjoyed this film because it reminded me of other gateway horror films like Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and Final Destination. Were there any particular horror films or directors that influenced your approach to TAROT?

Spenser Cohen: Before we wrote a word of the script, Anna and I discussed the tone we wanted in the film. The question that came up for us was, could we make a movie that was as scary as a James Wan film but as fun as a Spielberg movie? A lot of horror movies that come out now can be really bleak and dark, and we love those movies, but we wanted to bring back a little bit of that Spielberg vibe to this.

A woman on a ladder looks out to see candles everywhere in the attic
Larsen Thompson “Elise” in Screen Gems TAROT | Image Courtesy of Slobodan Pikula

I'm originally from outside Boston, and I loved that you incorporated Boston mainstays like the "T" (transit system) into the film. Are you from there? What was the decision behind choosing Boston as the setting for the film?

Anna Halberg: I love Boston, but no, neither of us are from Boston. It's just such a great city.

Spenser Cohen: A lot of movies have been shot there, but there's something about the city that feels still a bit unfamiliar. I feel like New York has been overdone, LA is overdone, and Boston has a little bit of everything.

One of the highlights of TAROT is the creature designs and kills. How did you approach creating these monsters practically?

Spenser Cohen: In bringing these [tarot] cards to life, we knew we would need to partner with incredibly talented people to make that happen. We knew we wanted to do everything practically, so the first step was bringing on Trevor Henderson, this absolute genius designer. He was the only person we met with. We went straight to him and said, you have to do this movie. He ended up designing all the creatures in the film. After that, we took his designs, and Anna and I brought Dan Martin and his team to London, who are also brilliant. They brought all of Trevor's designs to life using makeup, prosthetics, and practical effects.

Anna Halberg: We had a lot of fun crafting the kills and the sequences and tried to come up with set pieces and sequences that you hadn't seen before and interesting ways to kill people that weren't going to be super bloody or gory, obviously, because of the rating.

Out of all the incredible creatures, which one is your favorite? I know for me, it's the High Priestess.

Anna Halberg: My favorite changes constantly, but right now, I'd have to say it's probably The Fool.

Spenser Cohen: I think mine's The Magician.

Lastly, what are you most excited for horror fans to see with this film?

Spenser Cohen: Anna and I hope people will experience that feeling of going to Halloween Horror Nights with their friends. It's fun and scary. You're going to scream. You're going to have a good time. I hope people go on this rollercoaster.

TAROT arrives in theaters on May 3, 2024.


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