Another anthology film—yay…
I had never heard of The Dark Tapes before giving it a try on Prime, and it isn’t as bad as a lot of the other horror films on that service, but this doesn’t really mean it is very good.
Instead of breaking each segment apart, I will critique the movie as a whole. This one tries to combine each anthology together into a (mostly) cohesive whole, so I think that is the best way to do this.
I suppose it wouldn’t be another day on the blog if I did not complain about poorly written characters in a horror film. We are introduced to about seven different people in the first ten minutes (three different segments) and none of them seem particularly likable. We spend the most time at the beginning with a director, a professor, and his research assistant. This segment serves as an exposition dump, but also makes the characters seem snide and unlikable. Maybe this is due to me working on a campus, but most professors aren’t dicks when they are pitching their research to a director—same with graduate students. I suppose I could be wrong here in different fields, but it just seemed very odd.
We then immediately jump into a story about a couple, and they aren’t as bad. However, the camera work here suffers. I get that this film was made on a small budget, but the shaky cam is sickening at moments.
The acting is not bad. While the characters aren’t necessarily likable, they aren’t unrealistic (usually—sometimes they seem to under-react to things). A lot of the moments in this seem to be trying to recapture the magic of the first Paranormal Activity. We have sightless scares that are more based on camera trickery or convenient looking away, but there is a certain level of creep in the haunted house story.
I found myself getting sucked into the haunted house story. In a lot of ways, this one could have been a stand-alone story. And here we have one of the more problematic aspects of anthology films. It is hard to focus on the best aspects when there are poorer sections that drag the movie down. Further, anthology films seem to want to shake up genre expectations, and what this usually means is a dumb twist. Unfortunately, you’ll end up groaning more than anything in the final act of each segment.
We end up with a couple decent stories and one really forced entry. The episode “cam girls” is about as sophisticated as you would imagine. Further, this one doesn’t mesh with the others as well.
The bummer is that the stories interlink in a really dumb way in the end. At least the VHS series had the meta-narrative keeping things together.
The film as a whole is limited by the budget, and it seems they combined a lot of threads to combine funds. The film isn’t bad—there are some cool moments. Fans of the found footage genre will probably enjoy quite a bit of this.
To be honest, the only emotion I feel after watching it is “meh.” (that’s an emotion now, I guess). I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t really like it either. I think the team could make gold in the future, and there are some fun ideas, but they just didn’t stick the landing. If you like anthology films, give this one a try. 4/10