Directed by Vincent J. Guastini and Michael McQuown
The Dark Tapes is another in a long series of found footage flicks, but there are a few things that help it stand out amongst the pack. It’s an anthology film featuring three “dark tapes” along with a wraparound directed by FX artist Vincent J. Guastini, who also lends his talents to Michael McQuown’s three mini-features.
Upon starting the flick, there’s good reason for that whole “Yep, here we go again” feeling, but there’s more going on than in your average wraparound. More on that in a bit… first let’s tackle the initial dark tape: “The Hunters and The Hunted.”
The most familiar feeling of everything that’s included here, this tape centers on a couple who begin quickly experiencing things that go more than just bump in the night. Think all of the good parts of flicks like Paranormal Activity but with all of the fat cut off. The frights comes fast and furious, and just when you think you’ve gotten a grip on where this is all going, it quickly flips the switch on you. The end result had me nodding my head in approval.
Next up we have “Cam Girls.”
The word “pointless” comes to mind. This tape exists for a couple of reasons as far as I could tell: (1) to introduce a steamy, seductive lesbian subplot in which we see nary a nipple, and (2) to spread around some red stuff. Dull, poorly conceived, and without any real climax to speak of, these cam girls will have you demanding a refund.
But, hey, that’s the beauty of anthologies, no? If something sucks or isn’t your bag, you don’t have to wait too long before you’re on to the next segment. Enter: “Amanda’s Revenge.”
Honestly speaking, this entry is a bit of a mixed bag. After a bad run-in at a party with two guys, Amanda finds herself being kidnapped by otherworldly beings each night, who are doing a lot more than just probing her. Along the way, though, she picks up a few tricks that help her go from victim to cunning opponent. At first the acting is all over the place, but by the time we get to the nitty-gritty, our actors have firmly found their footing and are ready to deliver. Once the characters settle in, we’re treated to some pretty effective moments.
Now, back to that wraparound, “To Catch a Demon.”
As mentioned, there’s a lot more going on than in the average wraparound, which usually only exists to wrap things up in a pretty bow. This one, however, ends up being better than at least two of the segments on display here and makes me wish that Guastini did more than just direct it and present effects work for the others. What we have in “To Catch a Demon” is a study of night terrors the likes of which you’ve never seen. A master monster-maker, Guastini leaves it all on the screen for his story, and we’re all the better for it as it elevates this otherwise middle of the road project from the depths of mediocrity and into the good zone.
At the end of the day, The Dark Tapes ends up doing more right than it does wrong. If you’re done with found footage, this won’t do anything at all to win you back; however, if you’re still a fan of this sort of thing, you’ll likely eat this one up and ask for seconds. For those of you who are a bit more discerning, you’ll find some really cool creatures and a few truly frightening and original moments that will send more than just a chill down the old spine.
Disclaimer: Epic Pictures Group and Dread Central are affiliated. As a result we are treating this film as we would any other. Good or bad, we’re prepped to let you know.