In a regular feature dear reader, I shall be posting some vintage reviews of the very worst DTV dreck it has been my misfortune to see over the past few years. I shall kick off with The Tapes, which sadly isn’t even the worst British found footage horror film I’ve seen.
Directed by Scott Bates and Lee Alliston.
Starring Jason Maza, Arnold Oceng, Natasha Sparkes, Lee Alliston, Mandy Berger
Whitstable, Kent, 2008. Gemma (Sparkes) has enlisted the help of her dim boyfriend Danny (Maza) and his film student friend Nathan (Oceng) to film her Big Brother audition tape. Despite freezing weather and blizzards Gemma puts on her best glittery leggings and stiletto heeled boots, and gets stuck into the task in hand.
Filming is complicated by Gemma’s complete failure to grasp the concept of “blocking”, Danny’s incessant larking about, and Nathan’s increasing frustration with both of them.
Taking refuge from the weather in a local pub they try to continue filming inside but are told to stop by the landlord as, a) they don’t have the correct permissions, and b) “the locals wouldn’t like it”. Shortly after the pub barmaid sneakily tells them the landlord is well known as a “swinger” and hosts parties on his nearby farm.
Sensing an opportunity for a story, and forgetting Gemma’s Big Brother audition, the three set off to investigate and hopefully catch some salacious footage they can make some money out of.
Once at the largely derelict farm, they find a grubby understocked S&M dungeon, some discarded Tarot cards, and a lone candle left burning in a caravan. Undeterred they decide to hang around for some action to develop. Of course, they have stumbled into a rather more sinister situation than the middle aged key party they expect.
Did I mention the tarot cards? Might this be what is known in the trade as “foreshadowing” do you think?
Yet another entry into the burgeoning found-footage-kids-being-menaced-in-the-middle-of-nowhere sub-genre, The Tapes is by far the cheapest and most witless I’ve yet seen. Kicking off with the obligatory title cards screaming that the footage you are about to see is real, definitely real, yes really REALLY real. This is accompanied by a scary bass drone that pops up at dramatic moments throughout the film (should a found footage film really have a soundtrack?) The Tapes briefly attempts to present itself as a mock documentary with interviews with a (seriously unconvincing) police detective, and one of the victims’ family (who bursts into tears). However these affectations don’t last, and pretty soon it is business as usual.
As ever there is a horrible sinking feeling as you realise that you will have to spend at least an hour in the company of three bickering morons before anything spooky happens. Remember tearful Heather in The Blair Witch Project? Well Heather would deem these characters too annoying to hang around with.
Shot on HD, but downgraded to look like cheap camcorder footage (so why not shoot on a cheap camcorder then?) The Tapes is a particularly artless and ugly example of the style, and brings absolutely nothing new to the table. There is 60 grinding minutes of boredom, followed by ten minutes of blurry running around and screaming. However things do pick up in a final “chilling” coda which had me howling with derision.