The special effects, exotic locale and original story make it a unique, smart and satisfying horror film, despite a hackneyed ending.
Jake Sawyer (Jason Behr) is a tattooist/con man leading a picaresque life until he encounters Sina (Mia Blake) at a tattoo convention in Singapore. She gives scalp massages while her cousin and his friends administer tattoos using ancient Samoan techniques. Jake steals one of their tools and uses its return as a pretence for travelling to New Zealand to follow up on his exchange of sultry looks with Sina. But he inadvertently cuts himself with the tool, releasing a demon that makes Jake's subsequent tattoo clients die horrible deaths. The Tattooist (Peter Burger's directorial debut) is a lot of fun, especially in the slow-moving build-up of the first half. It has high production values, sumptuous and sometimes eerie photography and an intriguing enough romance. Behr, however, looks a bit squeaky clean to be an entirely convincing Jake, a snake oil salesman who touts his tattoos as curative. Intriguing possibilities are lost in the actor's neat haircut, buff body and good-boy diction. Still, there's chemistry between Behr and Blake, and we accept his horror at what he unleashes: tattoos that creep murderously across their wearers' bodies like vines. The ghostly climax is a bit hackneyed but up to then the special effects, exotic locale and original story make The Tattooist a unique, smart and satisfying horror film.