THE DARK TAPES (2017)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 38 minutes

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Directed by: Michael McQuown & Vincent Guastini

Written by: Michael McQuown

Starring: David Banks, Sara Castro, Cortney Palm, David Rountree, Matt Magnusson, Shawn Lockie, Stephen Zimpel, Emilia Ares Zoryan, Anna Rose Moore, Aral Gibble, Brittany Underwood, Jake O’Connor, Katherine Shaw & David Hull

Found footage horror flicks and anthology films are plentiful in the independent horror scene, which means there are lots of crappy ones out there. Every now and then, a cool handheld horror flick or a fun anthology might stick out from the overcrowded pack. Michael McQuown’s debut THE DARK TAPES is both an ambitiously creative found footage horror flick and a very fun (albeit flawed) anthology. The film consists of four major stories, one of which serves as a wraparound that connects the three other tapes. Following my usual anthology review format, I’ll grade each segment on its own merits and then evaluate the feature as a whole…

TO CATCH A DEMON: A couple arrive at a warehouse, only to find that the building is a mess and camera equipment is strewn everywhere. It turns out that this location was actually the site of a strange experiment that tackled R.E.M. sleep, night terrors, and otherworldly entities. As you might imagine, this experiment didn’t exactly go according to plan. This segment is cut between the film’s three other stories and keeps the viewer hooked by building up a natural progression of events. We get the scientific explanations before seeing the experiment and watching everything fall apart at the seams. It’s spooky entertainment and forms plenty of neat connections to (at least, two of the) other segments. This wraparound also delivers an awesome-looking creature and ended on an appropriately eerie note, though I wished it had lasted for a few minutes longer. B

THE HUNTERS & THE HUNTED: A loving couple move into a new house that, despite its glamorous appearance, comes with some unexpected baggage. This baggage includes: moving objects and unseen footsteps. Desperate to get rid of their spiritual houseguests, the couple hires a team of paranormal investigators and things go from bad to worse. This segment had me worried for the first five minutes because this seemed like a PARANORMAL ACTIVITY knock-off. However, director/writer McQuown has some nifty tricks up his sleeve and I was pleasantly surprised by the creepy turns this one took. Though it doesn’t seem as interconnected as the rest of the stories, this segment was easily my favorite story of the film! B+

CAM GIRLS: An online peep show takes a dark turn in this segment. I don’t want to give away any specific details about this story, because it’s an easy one to spoil. There are a handful of remarkable positives and noticeable negatives to be found here. I really didn’t buy most of the acting and thought the ending was too cheesy for its own good, but there are effectively freaky scares. I was initially going to write off annoying bits of quick editing as a corny detriment, but these clips actually served a purpose in the plot’s proceedings. Be sure to look out for creepy details lurking in the background (providing some legitimate chills) and one hell of a gnarly gore gag! B-

AMANDA’S REVENGE: Unfortunately, THE DARK TAPES ends on its weakest segment. Following a sexual assault at a party, Amanda begins experiencing periods of memory loss and shows a radical change in mood. Her friends become deeply concerned about her and possible PTSD from that night, but something far stranger is occurring. This segment wasn’t nearly as strong as everything that came before it. This could be because it almost feels like a superhero origin story and the film’s cheesiest effects emerge during this story’s finale. It wasn’t terrible and had a few merits in cool scenes and neat ideas, but it suffered from a couple of corny visuals and anti-climactic final minutes. C+

Like many horror anthologies (especially in the indie scene), THE DARK TAPES has stronger stories (THE HUNTERS & THE HUNTED is the best) and weaker segments (AMANDA’S REVENGE is the worst). However, none of these stories are bad and remain competently executed (despite the budgetary constraints occasionally coming through). Like many low-budget handheld horror flicks, this film has a few unconvincing performances and doesn’t always have top-notch special effects. However, THE DARK TAPES keeps creativity at the forefront, provides genuinely effective moments, and remains a lot of spooky fun. If you’re in the mood for an entertaining and (at points) scary found-footage horror anthology, THE DARK TAPE comes recommended!

Grade: B

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