Tarot cards—is there anything else in the world that’s quite so bewitching? Last year, I did a companion article to this one (linked below!) that matched tarot cards with horror books, so I figure I’d start out the year right and return to my beloved Rider Waite deck. Only this time, let’s head to the cinema and find our inspiration.
So for your divination pleasure, here are five tarot cards and the horror films you should match with them.
Major Arcana 17: The Star
Near Dark (1987)
It’s still shocking to me that 1987 gave us not one, but two classic vampire films about an outsider being unwittingly initiated into a group of bloodsuckers. The more famous of the two is of course The Lost Boys, but its underrated counterpart Near Dark is absolutely worth a watch as well. For years, it was my favorite of the two, and it remains an important landmark not only in horror but also for female filmmakers in the genre. Future Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow is at the helm, and she crafts a seriously creepy and effective tale. One of the things that sticks with me the most about Near Dark is all those beautiful, desolate landscapes where the sky truly seems to stretch on forever. And since the vampires can only head out into the world at night, the Star is a perfect match for this inimitable vampire western. If you haven’t watched it recently—or ever—then pick a particularly starry night, and do your best to find Near Dark on streaming. Be warned, however: sometimes, locating it on a streaming service is as elusive as its own haunted setting. It’s most certainly worth the effort though.
Minor Arcana: The 3 of Swords
The Love Witch (2016)
To be fair, this pairing is by far the most on-the-nose choice of this list, especially considering the 3 of Swords repeatedly comes up throughout the movie during the title character’s readings. The setup for The Love Witch is simple enough: devoted witch Elaine Parks is determined to find her one true love, even if she has to amass a pile of dead bodies to do it. The aesthetic of this 2016 film is absolutely gorgeous, harkening back to the days of Hammer horror as well as Technicolor melodrama a la Douglas Sirk. But the true center of this movie is Elaine’s misguided quest to discover love, and there’s no card in the tarot deck quite like the 3 of Swords to remind you how heartbreak is truly the greatest horror of all.
Major Arcana 16: The Tower
The Sentinel (1977)
Not nearly enough horror fans talk about 1977’s The Sentinel, and that’s a tremendous shame. After all, it’s a fabulously eerie movie with one of the best casts ever assembled in the horror genre. I mean, you’ve got Jeff Goldblum, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Walken, Ava Gardner, Burgess Meredith, and Eli Wallach. And that’s just some of the supporting players. With the underrated Cristina Raines as the helm, this tale of a fashion model whose new apartment seems too good to be true is an unsung horror gem.
The Tower feels like the ideal card to match with this movie, since the primary action—at least all the terrifying sequences—happens in a desolate brownstone in New York City. Definitely check out this movie if you haven’t seen it yet; if nothing else, you get to see a truly devilish cat celebrate an impromptu birthday party. It’s the kind of weird that needs to be seen to be believed.
Major Arcana 9: The Hermit
The Thing (1982)
The Hermit card is all about isolation, in particular how someone is choosing to exist away from the rest of the world. Granted, the Hermit is usually all about gaining inner wisdom, but then again, the crew at the base camp in Antarctica certainly gained a certain degree of wisdom about the true horrors that exist in the universe. And they’re nothing if not isolated.
At this point in time, most horror fans don’t need to be reminded what a classic John Carpenter’s The Thing really is, but just in case you’re looking for an excuse to give it a rewatch, then use these cold winter months (during which we all feel a bit like the Hermit) and hang out with MacReady and the gang as they battle cosmic horrors beyond our comprehension. It’s horror movie comfort food for sure.
Major Arcana 7: The Chariot
Lost Highway (1997)
Lost Highway is the epitome of a movie that’s grown on me over the years. While I’ve always been a fan of David Lynch’s work, I remember renting this one when I was in college and feeling a bit lukewarm about it. However, in true nightmare fashion, this strange little gem of a film continues to haunt you long after the final frame. With Patricia Arquette cast in two roles (or is it really just one?) and Bill Pullman playing one of the weirdest characters in his career, Lost Highway is an amalgam of a film noir, a horror movie, and an unapologetic foray into outright surrealism. Plus, the scene with the cell phone call at the party is among the creepiest moments in Lynch’s entire oeuvre.
Given the title of the film alone, the Chariot seems like an appropriate tarot choice; the eponymous highway is a literal place in the film, but even more than that, it’s a liminal, metaphorical locale where identities blend and conventional reality ceases to exist. Needless to say, tarot devotees—as well as all fans of the strange and supernatural—can find a lot to love in Lynch’s underrated 1997 masterpiece.