Friday, April 21, 2017


If, like me you're one of those people that whilst watching that 'classic' anthology movie VHS (and it's sequel) thought to themselves "This would be so much better if it was even cheaper made." then your luck is in.

The Dark Tapes (2017).
Dir: Vincent J. Gustini and Michael McQuown.
Cast: Emilia Ares Zoryan, Shawn Lockie, Danielle Baez, Brittany Underwood, Anna Rose Moore, Cortney Palm, Stephen Zimpel, David Hull, Matt Magnusson, Jake O’Connor, Katherine Shaw, Shane Hartline, Katelyn Bailey, Dave Rountree and David Banks (but not that one).

“Humanity is getting closer to the truth, … to us. We won’t let that happen.”

Welcome to the wacky world - AKA Dark Tape 1 To Catch a Demon - of Martin Callahan (Blur drummer Rountree possibly), a physics professor researching trans-dimensional entities out of a scout hut near the directors house.

These entities have been around for donkey's years and - according to his work - are usually explained away as night terrors.

Or cheeky wolves.


Alongside his tiny-faced assistant Nicole (Palm from Zombeavers) and hunky cameraman  Jason (Magnusson, son of Mastermind host Magnus), Martin is about to prove the creatures existence via the use of a collection of disco lights, an old washing machine, his mum's colander and Jason’s high speed, super slow motion video camera.

Plus a shedload of natty pseudoscience obviously.

Pseudoscience it has to be said that scarily makes sense.

Sort of.

Your dad filming you as you sleep earlier this month....this is how he pays for all those golfing trips.

You see Martin reckons that these entities exist within their own time stream which runs considerably slower than our own meaning that they would have to stand still for up to 3 hours for us to notice them.

And then only for a second or so.

Being a clever bastard, Martin has built a contraption that brings the two time streams into synchronization which will allow Jason to film them.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well we'll have to wait and see because in a flurry of static we're dropped into the ominously monikered Dark Tape 2 – The Hunters and the Hunted where we're introduced to the frighteningly square jawed David (Zimpel) who is busy filming his lovely wife Karen’s (Lockie) reactions to their newly acquired dream house.


The post-Brexit Kraftwerk lightshow left a lot to be desired.

Being a horror movie - and an anthology one at that - things soon go awry.

There are strange bangings and groanings coming from the pantry and eggy smells in the bathroom, luckily the pair manage to capture this spookily supernatural stuff on video, calling in a team of paranormal investigators to investigate.

With terrifying results....

Next up is Dark Tape 3 – Cam Girls” which tells the spooky (and mildly sexy - if you like that kind of thing) story of Caitlin (Zoryan), the ex-Christian cum chick kissing saucepot who has recently moving in with her lover Sindy (Moore), a harsh faced cam-whore with eyebrows so arched you could actually swing from them.

Which would probably be a darn sight more entertaining than this segment if I'm honest.

Slightly cruel yes but true.

Megan Fox licking piss off John Nettles yesterday.

In between performing sex acts for paying punters whilst experiencing the love that dare not mention its name, Caitlin has also been experiencing periodic blackouts, often waking to find that she's been captured on video doing things she can’t remember.

Nor, in fact,  imagine herself doing.

Acting in a natural manner for one thing.

Calling her old friend, the medical student Eric (Hartline) for his perspective - and it has to be said to have someone onscreen with even less charisma than the two leads (which is a tall order), she's disappointed when he blames her problems on too much booze and bad drugs.

Which seems fair enough.

Making her excuses ("I better head now cos I'm a mad lesbian!") Caitlin and Sindy get set for their next sex show but Sindy has a favour to ask.

She wants Caitlin to get one lucky punter to self harm on camera.

Fair enough.

"Laugh now!"

“Dark Tape 4 – Amanda’s Revenge” tells the tale of student Amanda (Underwood) who after having a few drinks at an end of term party is drugged up and dragged off by some bad boys who want to see her underwear.

Rescued by her three best pals before things get R rated, the trio – lovelorn Ryan
(O’Connor), Ashley (Katherine Shaw not to be confused with Shaw Catherine, the jewelers located at 31 Argyll Arcade, City Centre, Glasgow G2 8BA) and Josh (Hull, son of Rod) – decide that it'd be wise to record her when she wakes up in case they can use it as evidence when they call the police.

Or at the very least get £250 from You've Been Framed.

Either way they're onto a winner.

Unlike Amanda who upon waking starts talking rubbish in a deep booming voice whilst making the house (OK the camera) shake violently.

Her friends help her back to bed but when she finally returns, she has no recollection of what happened the night before or even of the shaky camera stuff.

Bizarre and chilling too.

Over the next few months our heroine begins to confess to Ryan that strange things have been happening to her as she sleeps and she may be being abducted - and fiddled with - by strange creatures from beyond our dimension.

Well it's either that or she's been eating cheese before bed.

Or in bed.

She looks the type.

Insert cock here.

Then it's back to Martin and co. who are currently trapped in an episode of Sapphire and Steel whilst being menaced by what sounds like a computerized Barry White wearing a pound shop skeleton mask and a nappy.

It never rains eh?

From director Michael McQuown and make-up wizard Vincent J. Guastini (who did sterling work on Ellen Burstyn in Requiem for a Dream by the way as well as directing the wraparound) comes another lo-fi sci-fi tinged found footage flick thrown mercilessly into a fairly over-saturated market.

So does it sink or swim?

Well it just kinda bobs along and waves its arms around randomly if I'm honest.

I mean there are some pretty nice ideas on show (especially during the To Catch a Demon section) but unfortunately they're held back and almost drowned out by the utter awfulness of stuff like the Cam-Girls segment and a frightening amount of OpenShot video editor 'special' effects.

Which is kinda expected in these situations.

"Did you get me a Drifter?"

But back to the positives of which one is the aforementioned wraparound  - reminding me as it did of the utterly sublime Ink from a few years back (which if you haven't seen it go and do so now - it's pretty bloody amazing) which, if I'm honest could be a feature in itself.

Running thru' the entire movie To Catch a Demon has a nice set up and pay off (if a wee bit of an obvious one) with more than a hint of Lovecraft and Doctor Who thrown into the mix yet is ultimately frustrating as the mid-sections seem to consist more of people shouting at jump cuts than expanding the story tho' there's a pretty nifty kill that'll raise a smile at the cleverness of it.

I for one wanted more mythos and less loudness.

Plus Cortney Palm looked lovely in her baggy jumper, a fashion item that - alongside woolly tights and sensible cardigans aren't featured enough in mainstream horror.

But I digress.

A sensible cardie wearing lady of the type not often featured in genre movies.

The same can be said of “The Hunters and The Hunted”which plays the Paranormal Activity tropes for all that they're worth before beautifully pulling the rug from underneath the audience with a lovely twist.

The cast are great and it's self aware enough to give sly winks at the audience throughout it's short runtime.

Reminiscent in many ways of Patrick Brice's brilliant Creep this could easily be expanded upon.

Or at the very least it'd make a fucking brilliant BBC 1 prime time sitcom.


Cam Girls on the other (free) hand is probably one of the most arse destroying things I've ever had the misfortune to sit thru'.

Which is a shame as Emilia Ares Zoryan (who looks for all the world like a young Phoebe Cates - ask your dad) does her best but is sabotaged at every opportunity by inane dialogue, suspense free plotting and being surrounded by the most wooden cast this side of Four Feather Falls.

Plus if you're promising a wee bit of gratuitous girl on girl action at least deliver some.

Even a knowing look or two will do.

I mean when Katherine Shaw 'seductively' looks at Zoryan I'm sure I could see her mentally going thru' her shopping list, her mysterious frown looking more like chronic constipation than carnal desires.

Trust me I know.

Emilia Ares Zoryan: pants on fire....or backwards.

Another great cast can't save “Amanda’s Revenge” from the curse of patchy pacing as this mix of Carrie and Mars Attacks! via the climax of A Nightmare On Elm Street has an interestingly bonkers premise mired by time constraints (again) and an overly earnest tone that seems at odds with the fantastical nature of the plot, which is a shame as Brittany Underwood is genuinely fantastic as the titular heroine of the piece ably aided by Jake O’Connor who gives a natural warmth to a role that could be cloying and a wee bit wet in less capable hands.

Much like David Rountree in the “Demon” segments the pair have a knack for delivering the at times overly explanatory dialogue with a natural flair that is at once convincing, plausible and interesting.

"Spice Girls number one for Christmas.....MONSTA!"

Neither as brain-searingly brilliant as the reviews say nor as arse-numbingly bad as I feared, The Dark Tapes (aptly) lies in that middle ground between genius of The Last Broadcast and the cinematic cesspit of Tape 407: The Mesa Experiment, ending up with more hits than misses - yet is ultimately frustrating as to what it could have been given more time and a bigger budget.

Or even any budget at all.

If you've lost your love for found footage then The Dark Tapes will do nothing to win you back but if you don't mind genuine frights, some clever ideas and filmic frustration in equal measures then give it a whirl, as whilst in no way a classic there's enough going on to make me intrigued as to what Gustini and McQuown attempt next.

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