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.