The Tattooist (DVD)

Terror is more than skin deep…

Tattoo artist Jake (Behr) believes that body art may be more than just skin deep, that some designs contain mystical elements with the power to heal. When he stumbles upon a traditional Samoan ‘tatau’ ceremony, and unwittingly releases an angry spirit out for revenge, Jake embarks on a journey that takes him across the world to Auckland – and deep into the dark heart of an ancient mysticism he can’t begin to understand.

Black Sheep director Jonathan King has turned in a screenplay that’s a world away from his baaarmy shlock horror – The Tattooist is a deadly serious thriller, played for scares not laughs. And it’s successful thanks to it attention to detail; the film’s Samoan cultural adviser Pa’u Tafaogalupe Mulitalo has ensured that the spiritualism and beliefs that makes up the film’s backbone remains true – and believable. This grounds the supernatural story in a sense of mythical realism, giving the film an effective, creepy atmosphere.

Thankfully, too, director Peter Burger doesn’t roam too far into the absurd; he embraces the simple facts that tattooing is painful and that the Samoan beliefs of postmortem revenge are spooky, and so lets the story play itself out without lashings of pantomime gore or distracting CGI. That said, the sight of victims being literally consumed by ink is a spine-tingling visual trick.

Although slow in places – particularly towards the end when a great deal of exposition has to be shoe-horned in – The Tattooist is an interesting, neat little thriller that effectively combines ancient customs with modern film-making techniques. And, as the first movie to come from Ghost House Underground, the new home entertainment imprint of the Sam Raimi co-owned Ghost House Pictures, it’s an enticing promise of things to come. 3 stars

Extra Features
First up is a commentary from director Peter Burger and star Jason
Behr. It’s certainly entertaining – even if Behr remains in the background – as Burger is so enthusiastic about his feature debut it’s impossible not to be swept along. He mainly focuses on the actors and locations, although he also talks at length about the film’s effective visual style.

There are three very short deleted scenes, including an epilogue, while more substantial at the featurettes looking at the tattoo designs and the film’s colour palette. A short clip shows a man having a genuine Samoan tattoo, and there is a clip of Burger being made a Samoan Chief. Finally, there’s a standard behind the scenes feature in which all involved wax lyrical about the experience. 3 stars

Jason Behr, Mia Blake, David Fane, Robbie Magasiva
Director Peter Burger
Certificate 18
Distributor Icon Home Entertainment
Running Time 1hr 31mins
Format DVD (£15.99 RRP)
Released Out Now