Like it’s docu-horror and found footage predecessors, including The Blair Witch Project (1999) and Paranormal Activity (2007), The Dark Tapes continues with the inherent realism that this genre delivers. The concept of found footage is fairly self-explanatory; video recordings are typically found after the person who created the recordings has died or is missing. Whoever finds these recordings goes on to watch the footage and, usually, discovers a grisly tale! Oftentimes these recordings are presented directly to us, the movie viewers, for us to digest on our own. What sets The Dark Tapes apart is that, instead of showcasing one story, it’s actually an anthology comprised of four stories and one short prologue. These recordings range from the traditional shaky cam, which has become iconic for this genre, webcam footage, and footage from cameras that have been fixed in place for various reasons. Director Vincent J. Guastini and Director/Creator Michael McQuown take us down a dark path filled with evil, horror, and supernatural surprises.
Wrap Around (Prologue): “Humanity is getting closer to the truth. To us. We won’t let that happen”, an ominous voice tells us as the movie begins. Next, we see a couple outside of a building that appears to be devoid of people. They notice a camera on the bench that wasn’t there a moment before. We see them walk into the building, into a space that is set up for some sort of experiment that the viewer learns about in the next story or “tape” as they are called here, and discover everything in disarray. As they explore the room, they find a video recording in the corner. They push play and so it begins.
To Catch a Demon: Curious about night terrors? Well, Dr. Martin Callahan and his graduate student assistant, Nicole, believe that night terrors are due to the time dilation experienced during REM sleep that then allows demons to be seen. When we meet them, they are ready to begin an experiment by videotaping someone, using a high-speed camera, sleeping on what appears to be a gurney in the same building that we saw in the first tape. They catch a glimpse of a demon on their first try but how will their second try go…
The Hunters and the Hunted: Even if found footage or anthologies don’t interest you, horror lovers will most likely enjoy this next recording. In this story, we watch a couple happily move into a new house. As predicted, paranormal activity ensues with thumps on the ceiling, doors being slammed, creaks and groans making you jump out of the blue. Soon, the activity escalates to physical assault and we see a handprint on the back of one of the main characters. They call in specialists to help them find out what they are up against and to help rid their home of this unwanted activity. But things don’t go exactly as planned and we are treated to an ending with a fresh perspective that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Seen through a webcam, Caitlin confesses to her friend that she has been blacking out at night and can’t recall anything about what she’s done during those episodes. She is visibly upset and concerned, of course. Her girlfriend, Sindy, returns and gives her a pep talk before they go live to choose a viewer who will watch them perform a private show. Sindy insists that Caitlin needs to talk the lucky winner into cutting himself on camera before the show can begin. She complies and then things get a little crazy…
Amanda’s Revenge: While staring straight into the camera, Amanda tells us how she had been abducted for several months and that she intends to get revenge on her captors. Skipping back a few months before, while Amanda was at a party something was slipped into her drink. Two men then carried her into a bedroom but her friends were able to rescue her before she’d been raped. The next morning she emerges in a panic, screaming about what had been done to her. Can you guess what happens next?
Overall, The Dark Tapes was an enjoyable, often unpredictable, mash up between found footage, anthologies, horror, sci-fi, and the supernatural. If you are a fan of any of those then you should be able to find something you’ll like with this release. *Take note Glenn Danzig fans, specifically Misfits fans, this movie is 1hr and 38 mins in length so you might be obligated to give it a try. Happy watching,