Directed by Scott Bates and Lee Alliston
Distributed by Exile Media Group
Offering a quick, cheap and effective method of delivering cinematic frights, the “found footage” subgenre continues to thrive as works of wildly varying quality fly at us from all over the globe. Now, straight from Great Britain comes Scott Bates and Lee Alliston’s home-grown The Tapes.
In the interest of refusing to fritter away too many more precious moments of personal existence on this particular fecal nugget, let’s just get straight to the point: The Tapes is awful. Inexcusably, inexorably, mind-searingly awful.
The film operates under the pretense that what the audience is witnessing are legitimate tapes chronicling the shocking fate of three teenagers who went missing back in 2008. For some reason, the parents have now decided that 2011 is the right time to let the public see what happened to them, though we’re told quite plainly in the opening moments that the police do not condone or approve of the material being made public. Not that it matters.
Said trio of teens are Nathan, Gemma and Dan. Setting out to, of all things, record Gemma’s audition video for submission to the torrid reality television spectacle-of-nonsense Big Brother (or should that be Big Bravvah?), they stop off at a pub to grab a drink. When a local farmer requests that they cease filming, a flippant discussion with a bar employee reveals that the farmer himself is a well known “swinger” who hosts sex parties up at his farm on the weekends.
Pound signs in their eyes, the brain-dead trio come to the conclusion that since they have a couple of cameras on them and it is indeed the weekend, they ought to pop off to the farm where they can find a couple of hidden vantage points from which they can record the ensuing orgy and make some easy cash selling the footage on the internet. Obviously, things aren’t quite so simple so after spending an unrelentingly boring and extensive length of time waiting in the farmer’s barn for something to happen, they realise to their horror that they’ve walked right into the middle of a satanic cult’s ritual grounds. This being a “found footage” flick, it isn’t much of a stretch to assume that it doesn’t end well for them.
Not that that’s a particularly bad thing, as 10 minutes into The Tapes you’ll be wishing that this were merely a quick recording of an automotive disaster, or maybe a Final Destination type show reel of death through which you could witness the recurring, violent demises of these complete and utter imbeciles again and again. No such luck, unfortunately. The less than 80-minute runtime of The Tapes feels like a lifetime, stuck with three of the most hideously unlikable, irredeemable British urban youths to have desecrated the genre’s small screens in quite some time. Wishes for something, ANYTHING, to make them just shut the fuck up and die already go unanswered until the obligatory camera-swinging, scream-filled finale. The film’s frights take the form of repeated situations in which one of the hapless idiots spins around only to be face-to-face with a member of the cult. When said cult member is wearing a goggle-eyed horse mask, though, it’s more apt to screech with mirth than fear.
This is completely bottom-of-the-barrel stuff, offering absolutely nothing of any worth in terms of entertainment value, scares, performances, direction, violent shocks, characterisation or imagination. Hell, the name of the cult is even the super-generic “The Brotherhood of Belzeebub” [sic]. If that is meant to be a self-congratulatory joke, it’s one that – like the rest of the film – fails utterly. More likely, it’s simply an indication of the lazy, cynical attitude to the potential returns-to-investment ratio inherent in the subgenre employed by the filmmakers here. Memorable only for how completely dreadful it is (how anyone can think those characters make for suitable protagonists will confound you for days), rather than released to the public The Tapes should have just been erased.
In terms of presentation, Exile Media Group’s release of The Tapes is of perfectly suitable quality for a “found footage” flick, so no complaints there except for the fact you’ll be wishing the audio would cut out after two minutes of listening to the main characters’ inane prattle. In terms of extras, we have a brief behind-the-scenes segment which gives us a few glimpses at casting sessions and scenes in progress. It’s not too bad but offers little insight to the process. Besides that, we have a few short interviews with director Scott Bates and actors Maza, Oceng and Sparkes and a still slideshow to top it all off.
0 out of 5
2 out of 5
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 152 – Cloverfield Paradox & The Ritual
Last week Netflix shocked the world by not only releasing a new trailer for Cloverfield Paradox during the Superbowl, but announcing the film would be available to stream right after the game. In a move no one saw coming, Netflix shook the film industry to it’s very core. A few days later, Netflix quietly released horror festival darling: The Ritual.
Hold on to your Higgs Boson, because this week we’ve got a double header for ya, and we’re not talking about that “world’s largest gummy worm” in your mom’s nightstand. Why was one film marketed during the biggest sporting event of the year, and why was one quietly snuck in like a pinky in your pooper? Tune in a find out!
Meet me at the waterfront after the social for the Who Goes There Podcast episode 152!
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The Housemaid Review – Love Makes the Ghost Grow Stronger
Written and directed by Derek Nguyen
Vietnamese horror films are something of a rarity due largely to pressure from the country’s law enforcement agencies that have warned filmmakers to steer clear of the genre in recent years. The country’s exposure to the industry is limited, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a handful of filmmakers out there that are passionate and determined to get their art out into the world. IFC Midnight has stepped up to the plate to shepherd writer/director Derek Nguyen’s period ghost thriller The Housemaid in hopes of getting it in front of American horror fans.
Aside from a few moments that delve into soap opera territory, Nguyen’s film is full of well-crafted scares and some surprisingly memorable scenes that sneak up at just the right times. For history buffs there’s also a lot of material to sink your teeth into dealing with French Colonial rule and mistreatment of the Vietnamese during the 1950’s. Abuse that, if you’re not careful, could lead to a vengeful spirit seeking atonement.
Desperate and exhausted after walking for miles, an orphaned woman named Linh (Kate) seeks refuge and employment as a housemaid at a large rubber plantation in 1953 French Indochina. Once hired, she learns of the dark history surrounding the property and how her mere presence has awakened an accursed spirit that wanders the surrounding woods and dark corners of the estate. Injured in battle, French officer Sebastien Laurent (Richaud) returns to preside over the manor and, unexpectedly, begins a dangerous love affair with Linh that stirs up an even darker evil.
Told in flashbacks, the abuse of workers reveals a long history of mistreatment that enshrouds the surrounding land in darkness and despair, providing ripe ground for a sinister spirit that continues to grow stronger. Once it’s revealed that the ghost has a long history with Laurent before her death, the reasons she begins to kill become more and more obvious as the death toll piles up. Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle among Laurent, Linh, and the specter of Laurent’s dead wife.
Powered by desire to avenge tortured workers of the past and the anger fueled by seeing her husband in the embrace of a peasant girl, the apparition is frightening and eerily beautiful as she stalks her victims. One scene in particular showing her wielding an axe is the most indelible image to take away from the film, and other moments like it are what make The Housemaid a standout. The twisted sense of romance found in a suffering spirit scorned in death is the heart of the story even if the romance between the two living lovers winds up having more screen time.
The melodrama and underwhelming love scenes between Linh and Laurent are the least effective part of The Housemaid, revealing some of Nguyen’s limitations in providing dialogue and character moments that make us connect with these two characters as much as we do when the ghost is lurking around the frame. What does help to save the story is a well kept secret revealing a connection with the housemaid and the apparition.
Honestly, if this was an American genre film, the limitations seen in The Housemaid might cause more criticism, but seeing an emerging artist and his team out of Vietnam turn out a solid product like this leads me to highlight the good and champion the effort in hopes of encouraging more filmmakers to carry the flag. Ironically, the film is set for a U.S. remake in the near future.
The Housemaid hits select theaters, VOD, and digital platforms TODAY, February 16th.
Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle.
Scorched Earth Review – Gina Carano Making Motherf**kers Pay In The Apocalypse
Starring Gina Carano, John Hannah, Ryan Robbins
Written by Bobby Mort and Kevin Leeson
Directed by Peter Howitt
Let me preface this review by stating right off the bat that I’m a huge Gina Carano fan, and will pretty much accept her in any role that she’s put in (are you going to tell her no), regardless of the structure and plausibility behind it, and while that might make me a tad-bit biased in my opinions, just accept it as that and nothing more. Now that I’ve professed my cinematic devotion to the woman, let’s dive headlong into her latest film, Scorched Earth.
Directed by Peter Howitt, the backdrop is an apocalyptic world brought on by the imminent disaster known as global warming, and the air has become toxic to intake, generally leaving inhabitants yacking up blood and other viscous liquids after a prolonged exposure, unless you’re one of the privileged that possesses a filter lined with powdered silver. Filters of water and the precious metal are in high demand, and only true offenders in this world still drive automobiles, effectively speeding up the destruction of what’s left of the planet. Carano plays Atticus Gage, a seriously stoic and tough-as-nails bounty hunter who is responsible for taking these “criminals” down, and her travels lead her to a compound jam-packed with bounties that will have her collecting riches until the end of time…but aren’t we at the end of time already? Anyway, Gage’s main opponent here is a man by the name of Thomas Jackson (Robbins) – acting as the leader of sorts to these futuristic baddies, the situation of Gage just stepping in and taking him out becomes a bit complicated when…oh, I’m not going to pork this one up for you all – you’ve got to invest the time into it just as I did, and trust me when I tell you that the film is pretty entertaining to peep.
While Carano’s acting still needs some refining, let there be no ever-loving mistake that this woman knows how to beat the shit out of people, and for all intents and purposes this will be the thing that carries her through many a picture. There are much larger roles in the future for Gina, and she’ll more than likely take over as a very big player in the industry – hey, I’m a gambling man, and I’ve done pretty well with my powers of prognostication. With that being said, the thing that does hold this picture back is the plot itself- it’s a bit stale and not overly showy, and when I look for a villain to oppose the hero, I’m wanting someone with at least a shred of a magnetic iota, and I just couldn’t latch onto anything with Robbins’ performance – his character desperately needed an injection of “bad-assness” and it hurt in that particular instance.
In the end of it all, I’d recommend Scorched Earth to fans of directionless, slam-bang wasteland pics with a touch of unrestrained violence…plus, Gina Carano is in it, so you can’t go wrong. If you’re not a fan of any of the above, feel free to skate on along to another piece of barren territory.
Looking to get your butt kicked in the apocalypse with extreme prejudice? Drive on up, and allow me to introduce you to someone who’ll be more than happy to oblige.
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