The Dark Tapes


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Dark Tapes
"Overall, this is considerably more successful in its thematic linkage than most of its ilk, and it' not hard to see why it has done well on the festival circuit."

As the success of collections like Tales Of Halloween and the V/H/S films have shown, there's a real appetite out there for horror anthologies, and though this one purports to be a genre-blender, it's pretty clear where its heart is. Elements of science fiction and mystery creep in around the edges as two young people investigating a neglected property discover video footage of three strange incidents without realising that they're caught up in something similar themselves.

The meta-story is the most sophisticated, blending solid ideas about relativity with rather sillier ones about time perception which came into fashion among a small clique of biologists about five years ago, and using them to substantiate a tale about sleep paralysis and barely perceptible beings from other planes. The themes of sleep and intrusion echo through the other tales. This one starts out strongly and doesn't quite succeed in maintaining its grip, due in part to some rather flat performances, but it's an interesting take on the type of eldritch horror recently explored in the likes of Banshee Chapter, and it has a psychological depth that's missing from the other tales.

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The first of these involves a couple who are concerned that their new home may be haunted, and advertise for 'professional ghost hunters' to help them out. Some good ideas in the early scenes give way to a rather twee twist and the film relies on established tropes rather than developing substantial characters; it's the weakest of the four.. The third, which follows a young woman who has been having strange dreams, takes an equally simple idea but gets a lot more out of it, largely because it carries more conviction. Its take on cam-based sex work, often presented in film as purely exploitative, is refreshingly nuanced and drab, showing a sympathetic side to the customers and making sidelong observations about male attitudes to women in same sex relationships. It will also deliver for gore fans who may feel they've been denied their due by what has gone before.

The final film is the most curious, interweaving themes of trauma following sexual assault and the experience of alien abduction. When a young woman is led off into a bedroom by strangers at a party, her friends quickly intervene, but their attempts to support her over the long term are confounded by her increasingly strange behaviour. Some smart questions about mental illness and society are contained within a meandering yet surprisingly potent little story that achieves a solidity often lacking in narratively driven shorts. It feels unfinished and not a little incoherent yet still contributes impressively to an anthology that punches above its weight.

Overall, this is considerably more successful in its thematic linkage than most of its ilk, and it' not hard to see why it has done well on the festival circuit. Its one drawback as an anthology is that its meta-structure makes it difficult to dip in and out of, but as there are no truly weak links here, it's still likely to please the home audience.

Reviewed on: 11 Apr 2017
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Four interlocking tales of terror.

Director: Vincent J Guastini, Michael McQuown

Writer: Michael McQuown

Starring: Emilia Ares Zoryan, Danielle Baez, Katelyn Bailey

Year: 2017

Runtime: 98 minutes

Country: US


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