Tamara is an occasionally diverting horror film. The title character (well played by dancer Jenna Dewan) is a shy, nerdy high school student who manages to get on the bad side of the jocks at her school. Natrually, this leads to the jocks pulling a rather cruel prank on Tarma and, of course, this leads to Tamara accidentally getting killed and buried out in the woods. However, like all shy, nerdy girls in these types of films, Tamara was into black magic and, the next day, everyone is quite surprised to see Tamara boldly back from the dead, strutting through the school hallways in a high heels and a red bustier. Not only has returning from the dead given Tamara a new look but it's also left her with a thirst for revenge and the supernatural powers necessary to get it.
The film's plot will be obvious to anyone who has ever seen a horror film and neither director Jeremy Haft or writer Jeffrey Reddick offer up any new twists on a familiar story. However, the film does occasionally feature some memorable moments. Though most of the actors sleepwalk through their roles, three actresses do offer up performances that transcend the limitations of their parts. As Tamara's best friend, Katie Stuart is immensely likeable and believable as a well-meaning teenager who has suddenly found herself in over her head. Claudette Mink, who plays the unfortunate wife of a teacher that Tamara has a crush on, is good in a relatively thankless role and she brings a real sense of fear to the scenes where she's menaced by Tamara's magic. She makes those scenes real and, for a few minutes at least, helps the picture rise above the limitations of its plot. As the title character, Jenna Dewan gives a strong and credible performance. Her strongest moments are in the beginning of the film when she makes Tamara's loneliness very real and poignant. Her terror and shame when she discovers that she's been the victim of a cruel prank is never less than believable and it helps to make an awkward scene very credible. Once she returns from the dead as evil Tamara, she is betrayed by a script that requires her to be almost too campy to be truly threatening but Dewan still manages to believably convey the anger and the need for revenge that lies underneath the surface of someone whose spent their entire life being picked on.
The direction from Jeremy Haft is rather pedestrian for most of the film until the final fifteen minutes or so. At this point, the survivors of Tamara's revenge find themselves under seige in a small hospital and it is here that the film actually comes alive. Haft creates a good deal of tension in these scenes and actually makes the fate of some of Tamara's victims rather tragic. The closing sequence of this film is almost good enough to excuse the rather lame moments that preceded it and it is in these final scenes that Tamara is the most compelling.
In the end, Tamara is a wildly uneven film and probably one that won't be enjoyed by people who aren't fans of horror films. However, Tamara has just enough promising moments to make it worth taking a chance on.