American tattoo artist Jake Sawyer (Jason Behr) explores and exploits ethnic designs from around the world. At a tattoo expo in Singapore, he glimpses the exotic world of traditional Samoan tattoo (tatau) in the work of the fiercely proud Alipati (Robbie Magasiva). Fatefully, Jake is attracted to Alipati's beautiful cousin, Sina (Mia Blake).
When Jake impulsively steals an ancient Samoan tattooing tool, he unwittingly unleashes a powerful angry spirit. Suddenly, his art takes on a frightening new dimension, exposing everyone he touches, including the feisty Singaporean Victoria (Caroline Cheong), to mortal peril.
Sensing the solution can only lie with the Samoans, Jake follows them to Auckland, where he runs into an old adversary, tattoo artist Crash (Michael Hurst) and a new one, the respected Samoan elder Aleki Va'a (David Fane).
His investigation takes him on a devastating journey into the dark heart of Pacific mysticism. There, Jake must recover his own soul if he is to save the woman he loves and escape with his life.
THE TATTOOIST was made by Singaporean and New Zealand co-production partners, from a New Zealand-originated script on locations in New Zealand and Singapore. The story centres on Samoan spiritual beliefs, in which the barrier between our world and the spirit world is very thin, leading events in one to have serious and chilling repercussions in the other.
THE TATTOOIST is an official New Zealand/Singapore co-production between Eyeworks Touchdown and MediaCorp Raintree Pictures of Singapore, financed by the New Zealand Film Commission, Daydream Productions, MediaCorp Raintree Pictures, supported by the Singapore Film Commission under the Project Development Scheme and executive produced by Julie Christie, Daniel Yun, James Dean and Paul Davis. The producer is Robin Scholes (Once Were Warriors, Crooked Earth), director is Peter Burger and screenwriters are Matthew Grainger & Jonathan King based on an idea by Vela Manusaute. Co-producers are Ng San San and Chan Pui Yin. Australasian distribution is by Buena Vista International, international sales by NZ Film.
Filmed in 2006 on locations in Auckland Central, South Auckland and Singapore and studios in Waitakere City, THE TATTOOIST is director Peter Burger's first feature, building on his strong career to date in commercials, short film (Fishskin Suit, Turangawaewae) and television drama (Rude Awakenings, Mataku, The Strip). His creative team includes veteran director of photography Leon Narbey (Whale Rider, No 2), production designer Gary Mackay (The Locals, Savage Honeymoon), costume designer Gavin McLean (The Maori Merchant of Venice), editor Paul Maxwell (Sione's Wedding, Rain), and composer Peter Scholes (Once Were Warriors, Memory & Desire, Desperate Remedies) The visual effects central to the scary, creeping tattoo elements at the heart of the film have been brought to disturbing life by Peter McCully of Albedo FX (Perfect Creature, Vertical Limit).