'The Dark Tapes' Is Everything That's Wrong With Found Footage Movies

By James Jay Edwards
Released: April 14, 2017
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A genre-defying mixture of horror, sci-fi, myth, mystery and thrills told as four interlocking tales in one intelligent anthology. Ghosts, spirits, creatures, demons and more from the paranormal world collide with rational curiosity.

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Film Review
The found footage trend has been both a blessing and a curse for horror fans. On the one hand, moviemaking has become so cheap that anyone can do it. And on the other hand, moviemaking has become so cheap that anyone can do it. When done right, found footage can be very effective. When done wrong, it's hard to watch. The Dark Tapes falls into the latter category.

The Dark Tapes is a horror anthology that purports to be made up of actual footage of supernatural and paranormal occurrences. One is about a husband and wife who, after suspecting that their vacation rental may be haunted, call in the help of a team of trained paranormal investigators. Another is about a pair of webcam girls who lure unsuspecting men into their seedy trap. A third is about a girl who develops strange powers after being assaulted at a party and vows revenge on her attackers. And all of these stories are bound together by a wraparound segment about a team of scientists and photographers who are investigating the "trans-dimensional entities" that cause night terrors.

The Dark Tapes, photo courtesy Thunder Road Incorporated 2017, all rights reserved.

Written and directed by Michael McQuown and Vincent J. Guastini, The Dark Tapes is one of those movies that makes the viewer think that they could do better, and not in an inspiring way; it's completely amateur. Each segment is worse than the one before, and each one seems like a short film ripoff of something else (the haunted vacation rental segment is Paranormal Activity with a lame twist, the cam girls one is a cheap knockoff of "The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger" from V/H/S, etc.). It seriously seems as if McQuown and Guastini saw The Blair Witch Project (or even Blair Witch), grabbed a camera and called some friends, and made a movie, without any planning or foresight as to what they were actually going to shoot. And it takes more than a shaky camera hand to make a modern horror movie.

But the lack of originality is not the worst aspect of The Dark Tapes. The film talks down to its audience, with every single segment spoon feeding minutes of verbal exposition that does all but look right into the camera and say "did you get all that?" It's a bit insulting that The Black Tapes doesn't give its audience enough credit and doesn't think that they can put a handful of clues together to figure things out for themselves. By explaining each and every phrase and action, the movie kills the little bit of mystique that it may have built up.

The Dark Tapes, photo courtesy Thunder Road Incorporated 2017, all rights reserved.

Any movie that can get finished and released deserves a ton of credit, so some respect is due for McQuown and Guastini. That being said, The Dark Tapes is just an excuse for cheap production value and shoddy camera work, using the "found footage" tag to make it appear stylish instead of ramshackle. There are some good ideas in the film, but not many, and those that are there seem to have all been lifted from other movies. The Dark Tapes is everything that's wrong with found footage movies - it's unoriginal, uncreative, and unimaginative.
Scary Factor
Because of the fact that everything in The Dark Tapes has been done to death before, nothing in it is very scary. It tries really hard, but most of the attempted scares are the typical sudden volume shrieks and camera jump gags. Even the sections of the movie that do have a little bit of the creep-out factor are sterilized by the over-explanation of what's going on ("did you get all that?"). The Dark Tapes is too generic, too bland, and too on-the-nose to be scary at all.

The Dark Tapes, photo courtesy Thunder Road Incorporated 2017, all rights reserved.

Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Release Date
April 14, 2017