Tape 407 (UK DVD)
Starring Abigail Schrader, Samantha Lester, James Lyon
Directed by Dale Fabrigar & Everette Wallin
Distributed by G2 Pictures
Marauding dinosaurs chomp their way into the found footage genre in Dale Fabrigar and Everette Wallin’s tiresome Tape 407, which sees the survivors of a commercial plane crash stalked and munched by prehistoric predators across the grounds of a secret military installation – with said survivors documenting every moment via camcorder, natch.
Keeping it brief, because realistically there isn’t a whole lot to Tape 407 that warrants anything particularly thoughtful, the resulting film is terminally scuppered by a number of gross filmmaking missteps that realistically should have been relatively easy to avoid. Lead characters Jessie and Trish (the teenage sisters who own the camera providing the audience their lens to the proceedings) operate as little more than human fog sirens – fit only for running, weeping, and screeching with such an incessant frequency that the mute button almost glows within your peripheral vision. The rest are essentially dino-bait, with scant effort implemented in bringing extra dimensions to any of them, something that is glaringly obvious when the most sympathetic character is realised merely by starting off as an asshole before making a single humanistic change of heart amidst the immediate peril.
The script – or lack thereof, in fact – is another major hamstring for the production. Frequently ad-libbed dialogue sees the actors regularly rendered uncertain, unbelievable, and gibbering their way through stretches of conversation with flubbed and repeated words that leaves almost every performance just feeling downright strange. In fact, the quality of the words on the page here is so low that it becomes rather difficult to discern just what was actually written and what was improvised by the cast. When a group of adults begin feverishly arguing whether a group of dinosaur eggs on the ground are eggs or rocks, straight after one of their number has just puked blood all over said eggs, the incredulousness meter rockets right off the scale.
These factors aside, the biggest problem with Tape 407 is right behind the camera itself. Making what is undoubtedly the single biggest cardinal sin in a found footage film, directors Fabrigar and Wallin still try to shoot the entire affair as though it is a standard visual narrative, completely failing to integrate the camcorder viewpoint in any organic way whatsoever. In a genre where the camera becomes the audience realised as character within the storyline, having this character repeatedly look at everyone else’s reactions to what’s going on, rather than what is actually happening, is frustrating, disingenuous, and just plain brainless. Take, for example, a sequence just after the main group’s recuperation from the plane crash: Repeated human screams and an inhuman roar emanate from the darkness in front of them, while silhouetted trees rustle fervently. Rather than actually point the camera towards the source of the sounds like even the most intellectually challenged person with a camera-mounted light would, our directing duo instead have one of the sisters sweep the camera back and forth across the faces of everyone else as they struggle to see what’s going on, and react to the screams. Moments like this are ten-a-penny throughout, and almost single-handedly destroy any chance that Tape 407 ever had at not making its audience severely pissed off.
For what it’s worth, the dino attack scenes are actually pretty impressive, spouting a modest charm that sees a reliance on unnerving sound effects, thunderous ramming attacks on doors, glimpses of toothy maws and snouts jabbing from the darkness, and darting tails as victims are consumed out of full sight of the camera. The less-is-more approach works, ensuring that for the most part Tape 407 handles its aggressors with aplomb. That is, however, until the crappy CGI-laden final reveal that sees the film completely shit the bed once and for all. Ultimately, Tape 407 sports a hell of a premise for a found footage flick, but the realisation is so profoundly lacking that you’d do well to just go and watch a double bill of Jurassic Park and Evidence instead. You’ll have a much better time with both.
G2 Pictures’ review copy of Tape 407 came in the form of a watermarked screener, however the video and sound quality were as to be expected from a film of this genre, exhibiting a decently stable image and clear audio (oh, those girls can shriek!) which is likely indicative of the final release quality. No special features were included, however all promotional material appears to indicate that the release is mercifully bare bones.
1 out of 5
0 out of 5