I think most people go in to a movie that’s labeled a found footage anthology film might be expecting something like “VHS,” but directors Michael McQuown and Vincent J Guastini have so much more ambitious in mind. While the aforementioned horror film garnered a small assemblage of horror stories with a framework, “The Dark Tapes” tries to add more cogency. Everything in “The Dark Tapes” is cryptic and complex, and what we’re watching ends up making more sense the more we think about it. The directors obviously aspired to make a movie you have to watch more than once to understand. And of course they invite audiences to go to the movie’s website to perhaps convey their own theories about what the movie entails.
Dani arrives in California to visit her cousin for a month and have some fun away from her worries and her past. The two girls do fun tourist things and prank each other, until something goes wrong, very, very wrong. As things go from bad to worse, the film explores voodoo, the supernatural, and hell, all through a found footage lens. The story created by writer/director Tom Costabile has a lot of good ideas and some truly unnerving imagery and moments. The opening with the voodoo curse being put into place goes from interesting to freaky fairly fast. The film itself then takes a little bit to establish the two cousins and the other players around them (including an unnecessary but not annoying cameo by Ron Jeremy) until one pranks leads to all hell breaking loose.
It’s just such a travesty that Adam Wingard’s shot at the “Blair Witch” mythology flopped and has been generally derided by fans alike. I, for one, completely loved “Blair Witch,” not only for being such a unique and terrifying experience, but for the respect Adam Wingard has for the mythology. Even if you never bothered to watch those documentaries about Burkittsville, director Wingard brings everything full circle, including nods to the documentaries, the much derided sequel, and the original film. It’s a legacy sequel, but one that also acts as an impromptu book end to the whole series. After this I don’t know when we’ll ever see anything about the Blair Witch ever again, but it’s a great consolation the series goes out on this note.
A woman receives a VHS tape one morning from an anonymous source. After watching the video and its odd, violent animation, she is puzzled and feels like she is being haunted. She soon decides to look for answers. Directed by Richard Mansfield (and have no verifiable writing credits online to check who did what), the film takes the premise of a found tape leading to investigations by those who have found or received it and turn it into what can be described as mostly found footage with touches of first person POV and other filming styles. The story is fairly basic with just a few characters and works as a found footage mystery for most of the film. It uses many story telling techniques with varied degrees of success creating a film that feels disconnected in places.
A couple plans their next activity together: To kill a random stranger. As they plan, prep, and discuss the possible murder, they start to disagree on things and it becomes clear that one of them is very into the idea of murder while the other is not so much. Written by Nick McAnulty who co-directed with Brian Allan Stewart, this found footage film does a few things right such as casting two leads that are rather unfamiliar, a move reminiscent of Paranormal Activity, and it shoots in a clear manner, meaning that is happening and said can be clearly seen and heard which is something many film of the sub-genre do not pay enough attention to. This film shows what is happening and the emotions very clearly and it works in its favor as it brings the viewer in and let them get invested in the story.
A Night watchman finds blood and camera equipment in an abandoned property on a land he was hired to patrol by developers. He turns these in to the local police who go through the hours of recorded evidence. On these, they find a group of campers being terrorized and picked off one by one.
I am proud to say that ever since Amanda Gusack sent Cinema Crazed her found footage film “In Memorium” back in 2006, we’ve been fans and have tried to spread the word about it to everyone who would listen. Amanda Gusack’s found footage horror film is a brutally eerie and creepy take on the sub-genre. I received an email from Ms. Gusack recently that “In Memorium” can now be rented on Amazon. If you’re a fan of “Paranormal Activity” when it was still a creepy ghost movie with an air of mystery and mystique to it before the sequels bogged it all down, “In Memorium” is right up your alley. It’s a creepy, well directed ghost tale and one I still boast about, and these are five reasons you should give it a shot.
A group of filmmakers go ghost hunting at a site reputed for sightings and paranormal phenomena. Once on the site, they take a quick tour and set up before finding cameras and equipment from a previous group. What they find on the recordings is disturbing and also a warning.
Written and directed by Chase Smith, Realm of Souls is a mix of found footage and traditional footage with a touch of night vision and false damage on the found footage. The story is typical of the found footage ghost story/demon sub-genre in horror. It goes in the expected ways: Team goes in woods, investigates, films, disappears, second team finds their work. The writing and directing here are decent but the story feels a lot like “been there, done that”, especially for anyone who watches a lot of horror movies.
The characters or people (as we are supposed to think of them as real people, and not actors playing parts) here are fairly run of the mill for the sub-genre with the added touch they are filmmakers so the found footage is halfway decent, shot in a more stable camera style (thankfully), and with decent focus. There are a few original twists and turns, but most were a bit predictable still. The dialogue needs to be notes here as it does come off mostly natural and not forced or grating as in many found footage films recently.
The cast is composed of some of Chase Smith’s regulars and new faces. Most of them are not going to be familiar to most viewers, which is something absolutely necessary for found footage films to work as a famous face can throw the viewers out of the story and the experience. Once again, Smith works with a big cast here, making it harder for anyone to stand out unless they are absolutely magnificent or completely dreadful. Neither happens here, however no one being really bad is a good thing as so much rests on the cast in this type of films.
The special effects are decent for what can be seen in the found footage and night vision scenes. None of it will revolutionize effects or the genre, but what is there fits with the movie and looks nicely bloody. Added effects that this reviewer could have done without were the fake damage on some of the footage and the blue screens between some of the scenes. The former was an annoyance while the latter just takes the viewer right out of the film while wondering why this is happening. This breaks any kind of tension there might have been and kills the mood of the film far too often. These do not add anything really to the film and distract way too much from the story.
The idea of filmmakers going to tramping grounds to film paranormal phenomena is interesting but the way it’s exploited here makes it lose most interest as the pace of the film is beyond slow, spending far too much time on its too numerous characters instead of the actual creepy and scary parts of the story. The film takes a very long time to get going and but the time it truly does, it’s too little too late and not enough time is spent on building dread and fear to make the reveals any kind of impactful.
Realm of Souls is a well shot but wasted with found footage effects, such as night vision and fake damage, which will most likely only appeal to hard core fans of the sub-genre. The casual viewer and those not into this style will most like be quite bored by the proceedings.
Realm of Souls was produced by Spirit World Films.