by George Wolf
It takes a good while to get to the creature in this creature feature, but that’s hardly the most misplayed hand in Tar. It isn’t until the last few minutes that the film serves up the kind of winky-winky that would have gone a long way toward saving it.
A group of employees in an office building above L.A.’s old La Brea Tar Pits is under a tight deadline to clear out. The smarmy landlord is evicting them all with one day’s notice, and they have to be gone by 6am or face a big penalty. Then of course the building’s power is cut mid-move, but there are bigger, messier problems.
Underground construction work on the subway expansion has awakened La Brea’s Matchi Manitou, and it ain’t happy.
Director/co-writer/co-star Aaron Wolf gets Timothy Bottoms and Graham Greene to head up his cast, which is good for the poster but bad for the rest of the actors who can’t keep up.
Wolf employs a narrative structure heavy on flashback, and the moments of tension that manage to avoid that roadblock are awkward and clearly telegraphed.
The ensemble of evacuees/possible victims (including Emily Peachy, Sandy Danto, Tiffany Shepis and Nicole Alexandra Shipley) has the depth and logic to only reinforce the point of that horror spoof Geico ad. And after about 90 minutes, the film’s eureka moment makes you wonder about the Drive-In pleasure Tar might have been if it hadn’t waited so long to tap a self-aware vein.