Tapes, The (UK DVD)

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The TapesStarring Jason Maza, Arnold Oceng, Natasha Sparkes

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.

Special Features

  • Behind-the-scenes featurette
  • Cast and crew interviews
  • Slideshow


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    Special Features

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  • Gareth Jones

    Copywriter and critic sporting a lifelong obsession with all things horror. A little bit sane.

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