This made-for-TV horror anthology dates back to 1975, and has pretty well remained under the radar the whole time, save for the potentially familiar African doll, who has since become the star and poster boy for this particular movie. It has a cult following, but I know that I hadn't really paid it any attention in the past, and it was something I could tap into easily, especially with my love of anthology films.
This anthology film is based on a batch of short stories by Richard Matheson. For those of you unfamiliar, Matheson is responsible for many books turned into movies, such as 'I Am Legend', 'The Shrinking Man', 'Stir of Echoes' and 'What Dreams May Come' just to name a few. The list is actually pretty long. This film's focuses are on 'The Likeness of Julie', here adapted to 'Julie, 'Needle in the Heart', here adapted to 'Millicent and Therese', and 'Prey', here adapted to 'Amelia'.
'Julie' introduces us to a college student Chad (Robert Burton) who one day gets a glimpse of his teacher Ms. Julie Eldridge (Karen Black) and develops a swift, lustful crush on her. At one point he asks her to a movie, which she reluctantly accepts. Without going into dark detail, we soon learn just how despicable a guy Chad is. However, unbeknownst to Chad, his teacher isn't quite what she seems, and soon it becomes a great revenge thriller story fo this particular day and age. It's perhaps the story here that has actually aged the best for what it is.
'Millicent and Therese' (both of whom are also played by Karen Black) was easily the weakest of the batch, profiling two sisters. Millicent is repressed, shy, and considers herself the "good sister" between them. Therese, however, is largely considered evil by Millicent, and is the party-going bad girl between the two. Millicent has plans to kill Therese and rid the world of her evil ways, but then it all comes down to a twist that you can probably predict reading this right now.
'Amelia' (Also Karen Black) is by far the most popular of the bunch, and is the only of the three to actually be adapted by Matheson, himself. Amelia purchases a wooden "fetish" doll (seen above). According to a scroll that comes with it, the doll is otherwise known as "He Who Kills", and sports a gold chain around its neck, which, if removed, unleashes the evil spirit within the doll. So the chain falls off, and it's basically this little thing chasing her around the house the whole time. It sounds pretty typical, but there's a cool twist ending to it that I didn't quite see coming.
So with the first and third being liked pretty well by yours truly, but the second one being pretty bad and predictable, the film in its entirety comes out to be pretty average. It's a neat, fun little time if you're looking for some time to kill. But being that it was made for TV, there's not many extremities to this. That doll is about as violent and creepy as it gets, and is probably the best short of the film. But I do still think that first one deserves a do-over for newcomers.
I had another movie called 'It's Gawd!' in place of this, originally. However, I've decided to hold onto that one for a differently themed month. Instead, I thought I'd wrap things up... or roll things up?... with 'Cheech & Chong's Animated Movie', just to relive some of those classic moments.
The film is really quite simply animation that has been put to various audio tracks from some of their albums. I had 'Cheech & Chong's Greatest Hit', and was able to recognize quite a few of the skits they've thrown in here. - some of it with added dialogue. I was also pleased to find out that there was a lot of this that i was unfamiliar with.
This is an anthology films, as well, so really something you'd have to be in the mood for. I'd have to imagine that mood is completely stoned, but I mean, when in Rome, right? Anyway, it sounds an awful lot like I'm praising this film, but nothing could be further from the truth. If I enjoyed this in any way, it was only because I got to listen to those old tracks again, and a few new ones, and they always managed to deliver the laughs.
The problem I have with this movie is that it's one of the most unnecessary things ever created. it's kinda neat to see about introducing some of the noobies through this idea, as it's almost a "best of", but in my humble opnion, it all just works better as audio. The cool thing about audio is that you can throw these images on the projector in your head, and come up with any imagery you want. This animation style isn't exactly the best, and there are way too many times it gets unnecessarily gross. If you're a fan of these two, it's just better to imagine the ACTUAL guys pulling these skits off. But God bless them, they tried.
It's not anything that I'd call horrible, but it's definitely weak, and it's one of those movies that might be better left on in the background during a house party or something, so people will mostly just be listening to it. And of course, that just circles back to these skits being an audible treat as opposed to a visual one, and my case is now rested.
But hey, don't just take my word for this. I can't really recommend this to anyone, but if you are a hardcore fan who's yet unfamiliar with a lot of their audio skits, it might be worth checking out. But again, I'd most highly recommend looking for the audio and just using your imagination to fill in the blanks. It's an altogether unnecessary movie, made only for an easy money grab. May I recommend getting your hands on 'Cheech & Chong's Greatest Hit' instead, and taking it from there. The only reason this is getting a rating as high as it is, is due to the reminiscent audio. This is otherwise a clear 1, or less than 1.
Kicking off "Ghost Month", here we have a bit of a hidden gem for horror fans - that is, depending on personal tastes. Yeah, this is another one of those films that critics mostly seemingly love, but general audiences might find pretty mediocre. Once again, I find myself at an odd balance with this one, as I can easily see both sides of the coin. To some extent, this film has a uniqueness to it that's pretty admirable. However, a lot of that uniqueness is so incredibly strange and out there, it'd be easy to find it as unnecessarily tacked on.
This one is about Professor Goodman (Andy Nyman, who also directed with Jeremy Dyson) - a well-known professor and skeptical television presenter who is dead set on debunking paranormal frauds in an attempt to help people see reality, instead of focusing on the pains of losing loved ones. His family was torn apart by superstitions, and he doesn't want the same for others. However, assistance in exposing people like psychics also takes away from any shred of hope these people have in a hereafter.
He's invited by his inspiration, a paranormal investigator named Charles Cameron (Leonard Byrne) to check out three paranormal cases, which ultimately turn the film into an anthology. The first involving Tony Matthews (Paul Whitehouse), a night watchman who encounters a haunting at an asylum; the second, an occult-obsessed teenager named Simon Rifkind (Alex Lawther) and a nasty car accident in the woods; the third, financier, Mike Priddle (Martin Freeman) who is haunted by a poltergeist while his wife is off giving birth.
After the third case, that's when the movie goes pretty well off the rails in order to get to the final scene, where it all comes together. While the first couple of acts of this film are your standard creepy ghost movie, the third act is kinda one big WTF moment until you do get to the end, where it all makes sense. But it was a bit of a struggle for me to get there.
Admittedly, there was a point where the film lost my interest, as it just got too weird. But I forced myself to stay the hell put and hope that the end was at least interesting. Then, I just didn't know how to take the ending. When all said and done, I felt that the ending provided was the only route that made any sense. At the same time, the ending is a total cop-out. When we see the final scene, you just think to yourself "oh, they're doing this... but nothing else would make any kind of sense."
The film can be found on Netlfix (at least up here in Canada), so check it out and judge for yourself. There's still plenty of good here, like eerie atmosphere, creepy imagery, likable characters, and what I love - less cheap jump scares, more overall uneasiness. I enjoyed it for the most part, but it's nothing that will blow anyone away.
Lately, I have been logging onto Facebook, and ads for this low budget, found footage horror flick kept popping up. It had me mildly curious, but then I read the some of the reviews in the trailer like "2nd most of any found footage film, ever" (that's not a typo on my part either), but also looked into all these awards it managed to receive. Various sites seem to hold in in high regard, and even Rotten Tomatoes has it at 100% (which really means nothing when based on about 6 votes, but still, no one complained quite yet). The trailer looked disturbing enough, and my goal was set - I had to see this movie for myself, home alone, in the dark, house to myself, save a couple of cats.
What we have here is a found footage horror anthology, telling four different stories, all seemingly having to do with some sort of evil presence. Be it spirits, possessed humans or demons from another realm, it's all been caught on a collection of amateur footage that's "real" and all that comes with the horror cliche of found footage and evil spirits.
This movie sort of gets split right down the middle as far as overall quality goes. It's impressive what they were able to accomplish as far as the looks and special effects with a low budget of an estimated $65,000. The sound on the other hand, leaves a LOT to be desired. Any time a noise would get under our skin and give you the creeps, it'd be followed by something kinda ridiculous sounding, taking you out of the movie. But again, with a low budget like that, most of it probably went to the overall look of things. With a Hollywood makeover, this could be REALLY good.
One thing that couldn't really be saved here, though, is the sub-par acting. A lot of reviews for this kinda praise it, and I don't wanna be TOO harsh, but I didn't believe for a second I was watching something "found". With a few minor exceptions, it just feels like acting all the way through. It takes you out of the terror of it all, and a lot of the scarier parts are far less impactful because of it.
As far as scary found footage films, I really found this to be completely over-hyped. One thing I look for in good horror is the lack of sleep later that night, like if some image is sticking with me that I personally found truly disturbing. If it messes with my mind, it did it's job. This, however, is just more of the same. It really has become a horror cliche at this point to combine found footage with evil spirits. It was a great idea at the time, and HAS often worked (maybe a new Top 10 list to do), but for the most part found footage and evil spirits is just getting stale.
I think what really bothers me about it is that the found footage genre CAN go places if people just brainstorm and explore other avenues. Whether you liked them or not, 'Cloverfield', 'Chronicle' and even 'Apollo 18' have all at least tried to break away and do something different. When you look up the found footage genre on Google, however, it's mostly a slew of movies about demons and/or ghosts. I mean, c'mon Hollywood. Just off the top of my head - found footage from a scuba expedition where they come face to face with some sort of sea monster. I'd pay to see that. Is it the best idea ever? Maybe not, but it's still a different take on the genre.
When all said and done, 'The Dark Tapes' isn't necessarily a terrible film. The ideas are intriguing, and it can be relatively unnerving at times. There's just a few aspects of it that make it less of a scary film and more of a student project film crossed with an overdone Hollywood concept. But for those hardcore underground horror buffs, it could be seen as a unique treat. Whether you'll like this one or not really just depends on what kind of horror fan you are.