The Dark Tapes gives us fuel and hope for another solid found footage franchise in the style of V/H/S
Ok, so the screener I got for The Dark Tapes was an unfinished cut of the film. There was still some touch-ups in the special fx department to be done. I was well aware I was going to met with some unfinished business and I wasn’t sure what to expect.
The Dark Tapes consists of 4 short horror stories with one main story to bind them all together. The main story running throughout is called To Catch A Demon. This is a story of a scientific experiment that involves three people, a doctor, his assistant and a cameraman to record all the events.
The scientist believes that if he is woken during REM sleep he will start seeing entities and beings from a different realm. We all know, this sort of stuff is never a good idea in a found-footage film or any film for that matter. I found nothing wrong with the FX in this segment, in fact, it was creepy and the use of sound FX was perfect and added a chill to your bones. I was happy that this was the segment that we would be jumping back to throughout the film.
The second installment focuses on a couple who have just moved into a new home and start experiencing paranormal disturbances. They hire the help of a group of paranormal investigators who believe that this is the one, this is the haunting that will make them famous. When the investigators arrive at the house they do what you’d expect them to, they set up cameras in every room to catch every single move. It isn’t long before the team start to experience more ghostly activity than any of them have ever experienced in their lives.
The simplicity of the second installment is what make this one work so well. I still get a chill when I hear footsteps coming from the attic or the sound of a child crying, or a ball rolling down a hallway. This one ticked all the boxes for a proper paranormal found-footage flick. I found some moments (and we usually get these with FF flicks) when I thought, WTF? are you doing holding the camera, or, you just managed to throw the camera down and leave yourself in a full-frame-shot. All of these questions arose in the second installment but this was done on purpose. Towards the end, we start to learn that everything that happened in that house happened for a reason. There is evil in the house, a bigger evil than any of the paranormal team could’ve ever have imagined.
The third part of the story is done in video call style – the segment is like watching a Skype call. Again, the simplicity makes it work and it went in directions that I was not expecting. It starts with our main character talking with her friend on video chat about blackouts she has experienced.
After talking to her doctor friend, we then get introduced to her lesbian lover (It still looks like the video call is going). We then learn that the two of them are part of a kinky webcam show. They decide to treat one of their subscribers to a free webcam session. WHat the lucky winner does not realise is that the two girls are looking to take their show to shocking new lengths
The movie then brings us to back to the Catch A Demon segments and we see our three main characters going too far with the sleep experiment, getting trapped between realms and fighting some sort of creature. The last one follows a young woman called Amanda that has been repeatedly abducted by aliens and experimented on. Like most abductees in movies – people think they’re crazy and don’t believe them. Amanda explains in great detail about the experiments, it’s not the physical experiments that bother her the experiments that get inside of her head. Her abduction has also given her some special abilities. At the start of the film, there was a message saying to pay close attention to every line of dialogue that everything is connected. I tried to figure out what the connection was between the installments and the opening sequence that ties the movie together, but I couldn’t find one.
We then get treated to an alien abduction story that follows a young 20-something female called Amanda. Amanda has been abducted many times but no one believes her. She has also gained some special abilities and uses these abilities to prove to her friends that she is not lying. When the friends are faced with evidence that Amanda is capable of things no human could ever do , they have no choice but to believe her stories of abduction.
Amanda tells her friends that it ain’t the physical stuff that gets to her, she can deal with as hard as it maybe. It’s the experiments that get inside of her head are the ones that she can’t take. She invites her friends around to her place for them to witness one of the abductions.
So, this was undoubtedly the one with unfinished FX, and it looked like it needed a lot of work. It is hard for me to tell what the finished product is going to be like without me seeing a final cut of the movie. If they’re able to touch-up the FX to create a similar effect the other creatures, as they looked pretty damn good I think this would sort it. I was really impressed by the FX at the start and throughout, but really let down with the one at the end. I really want to see how this one turns out.
Even though The Dark Tapes was shot on an estimated budget of $65.000 most of it looked amazing. There is definitely a market out there for another franchise like this. The Dark Tapes may tread on familiar ground but looks and feels fresh and offers enough twist and turns to keep you glued
The acting was really impressive with most of the performances. Some very strong ones, and some not so strong. Not that any of it was unbearable but the good performances definitely stood out.
The Dark Tapes doesn’t show us anything new in the genre but it does fuck with it a bit and it works on so many Levels. The film has everything from creatures, serial killers, alien abduction and ghosts and done on a tiny budget. I am looking forward to revisiting the final cut of the movie to see what the guys have done.
The Dark Tapes is the first feature from Michael McQuown & Vincent J. Guastini
Written by Michael McQuown
Directed by Michael McQuown and Vincent J. Guastini