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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

THE DARK TAPES -- Movie Review by Porfle

There's more to "found footage" than just the convention of seeing an entire movie through the lenses of various cameras.  There has to be a good reason for it, and it has to add to a film's effect in a way that justifies it.  

Directors Michael McQuown and Vincent J. Guastini have scored on both counts with their excellent indy chiller THE DARK TAPES (Epic Pictures, 2017).  Not only is it well-written, well-acted, and technically impressive, but it manages to make "found footage" scary again. 

Basically an anthology piece whose segments relate to one another in some way (more or less), the wraparound story concerns a couple of college students who stumble upon the remains of a sleep research experiment gone wrong.  The lab is a shambles, the bed is bloody, and the professor and his assistants are missing.  Perhaps the footage on their video cameras will reveal what happened...

We meet Professor Callahan, one of those quietly obsessed types; Nicole, working on her doctorate in physics; and Jason, the group's camera operator. They're deep into their research into sleep paralysis, or "night terrors."  Callahan has a theory about the "shadow people" who often appear to those suffering from this condition--that they're actually trans-dimensional entities who exist in a different time continuum than ours. 

But before we get too involved in their story, we're then told the tale of David and Karen, a happily married couple whose beautiful new dream house turns out to be haunted by things that go bump in the night (and all day, too). 

After some pretty eerie events (footsteps on ceiling, a rubber ball that stops and rolls back to them) which gradually escalate into sheer terror, they finally call in a team of paranormal specialists in what will seem a familiar scenario to viewers of the SyFy Channel's "Ghost Hunters."

These "experts" are obviously in over their heads, and what follows is a nail-biting succession of scares taking place with that creepy night-vision effect that makes everything seem even scarier.  I'm not going to elaborate further, but suffice it to say that things (a) get a lot worse, and (b) do not end well.

After more with Professor Callahan's group we see the story of two young women running one of those cyber-sex webcam rackets.  This one also starts out rather uneventful until mysterious outside forces begin to interfere with the good clean fun, and suddenly Caitlin is trying to persuade one of her horny clients to get a knife and cut himself juuust a little bit.  And no, this one doesn't end well, either. 

Next is an intense segment called "Amanda's Revenge", which gives us further insight into the problem of "night terrors" and "shadow people."  After Amanda is molested at a party, she starts to experience strange intruders in her bedroom and feels as though they're performing sinister experiments on her.

With the help of her friend Ryan, she tries to fight them or at least record their presence.  What happens next is not only disturbing, especially if you have a primal fear of the dark, but leads right into the film's finale in which Professor Callahan and his assistants learn more than they ever wanted to know about the subject of trans-dimensional entities.

This final segment is not only nail-bitingly suspenseful, but it also contains at least one killer jump-scare that froze my blood ice cold.  The acting and direction are extremely well-handled, making it a prime example of using imagination and skill to get the most out of a limited budget. I felt pretty numb when it was all over, having been both thoroughly scared and thought-provoked.

Think of how the original "The Outer Limits" and "The Twilight Zone" used to fire up your imagination while giving you a severe case of the creeps, and you'll begin to understand how unnerving THE DARK TAPES is.  I started watching it around midnight--alone--and it wasn't long before I paused it and thought: "Okay, the rest of this can wait until daylight."

Order it now on iTunes

Also available on Google Play, Vudu, iNDemand (Comcast- Xfinity, Time Warner, Cox, Bright House & more), Dish TV, Amazon, Vubiquity (Verizon Fios, Charter, Sudden Link, Media Com &more), Xbox, Playstation, Sling TV & Vimeo.


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