Written by: Tara Mae Jackson
Directed by: Michael McQuown and Vincent J. Guastini
Cast: Cortney Palm, David Rountree, Matt Magnusson
It seems people either hate or love the found footage style films, there aren’t many who are on middle ground with this wave of horror style that has been popping up everywhere since the popularity of The Blair Witch Project in 1999, and probably refueled largely in part thanks to movies like Paranormal Activity, Cloverfield, and Rec. Personally, I find that a new level of immersion in the movie and the horror of the situation can be reached by capturing this style, the feeling tends to be more raw, the shakiness and distortions of the camera lend to the tension and paranoia aspect, and in some cases the performances of the actors tend to be less glamorized and more authentic. While found footage is not perhaps for everyone, I believe that in at least some of these films cases, they should be given a fair shot.
The Dark Tapes is one such film that I believe true horror fans could really appreciate. There were smart decisions made, things seemed thought out, not one moment seemed like throw away filler, and the little surprises and twists truly delighted me at times! I like the idea of some of these found footage themed movies are breaking more into the anthology ground, it’s a way to avoid those slow drawn out moments you sometimes tend to get in full feature length stories, which is where I think those who dislike this style find their biggest cause for argument. The anthology angle worked well for this movie, and it gave you a variety of themes to work with, so there really was something to please fans of most sub genres of horror though it did play most heavily on the supernatural and at times bordered sci-fi.
The main story, or Dark Tape 01, To Catch A Demon was divided throughout the film kicking it off, picking up between the three other “tapes” and finishing out the feature with a nice punch that brought it all back to that first moment. It follows a science experiment in which a demon, or Transdimensional Entity’s, image is to be caught on film, to do this the Professor must be asleep as the theory dictates waking while in R.E.M. sleep is the only time these entities can be glimpsed as the mind is still in a different time dilation during this brief time. The hope is, with his equipment and this specially hired cameraman, his T.A. can capture the demon’s visage.
Dark Tape 02 is called The Hunters and The Hunted, and it follows the story of a couple that has moved into a new residence and begins to immediately experience paranormal activity that escalates quickly to violence. Desperate they reach out on the internet to find ghost hunters or paranormal researchers. What happens once they arrive and the hunt begins you’ll have to see to believe! Dark Tape 03 is called Cam Girls and kicks off with a video chat in which it is revealed one of our cam girls, Caitlin, has apparently been experiencing blackouts and has periods of time she can’t account for. Enter her partner Sindy and we discover the two make their money by selling “shows” online, money being blown on wild nights of drinking. Sindy is looking to up the game and asks Caitlin to have one of the guys perform an outrageous act before their next show, and things quickly get more interesting. Dark Tape 04 is called Amanda’s Revenge and starts with Amanda giving a bit of a testimonial which indicates she has been being victimized, and intends to fight back. Time jumps back a bit and we get a party segment in which we see Amanda get rescued from two guys who have roofied her. The behavior she exhibits in the morning is rather bizarre, leaving her friends a bit puzzled, worse yet she runs off soon after, having only cryptic occasional video chats with her friend Ryan. While her friends think she must be having a psychotic break due to the traumatic experience, Amanda seems convinced something else is at work here. Either way, it is evident something is definitely not right with her.
Remarkably, this movie was produced and crewed by just five people, Michael McQuown, Nicola Odeku, Haldane Morris, Amon Zia Mahmud, and Vincent J. Guastini, two of which were also directors. Michael McQuown also wrote, worked on the cinematography, and edited this film. Considering how well it came off, and that in general it didn’t feel like super low budget indie, I’d say hats off to this crew! I will always say you can tell when people put everything into something and when they really care about what they are doing, and that is evident in this film, no doubt. I look forward to more from a crew like this!
Overall I found this to be a good and mostly solid anthology. With anthologies there are always weaker segments of course, or ones you think needed just a bit more time to be more fully realized. I think tape 04 could have used more time to really flesh out all the ideas they had, and because of this perhaps did make it the weakest for me, but that’s not me calling this bad by any means. My only complaint was that you’re never given a reason that all these stories are connected or why they are called the dark tapes, there is nothing that ties them together. The main story we get throughout is connected in no way to these other stories we are treated with, so don’t spend time looking or waiting for the connection to happen. This movie is definitely for found footage fanatics, and horror fans who enjoy surprise twists with a dark sense of humor and a smart plot.