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The Strange Things Boutique




DVD. Exile Media Group.

The TapesAnother day, another ‘found footage’ film – is it me, or has this been a bumper year for such films? This one originates from Britain and, somewhat inevitably, turns out to be quite a horrible experience.

The film centres around a bunch of videotapes recovered by the police at a murder scene, shot by three of the most annoying characters you’ll ever come across – they make the Blair Witch trio seem clear-headed and sensible. There’s Nathan (Arnold Oceng), a would-be media student, his chavvy mate Dan (Jason Maza) and Gemma (Natasha Sparkes), a dead-eyed harridan who wants to appear on ‘Big Bruvvah’, and so has enlisted the pair to shoot a suitably brain-curdling audition tape for her. Along the way, they hear about swinging parties at a local farm, and decide that this would be a lark to film. And so for the next hour, they wander around, argue, whine and generally do everything they can to test the patience of the viewer, before finally discovering that the party is somewhat more sinister than they had expected.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with a horror film setting up a bunch of revolting people to be picked off by the monster – it’s something that gives the viewer a certain sense of satisfaction. But the problem here is not just that - by its very nature - the film has to keep all three alive until the end, but also that you suspect that the filmmakers think that these characters are actually appealing in some way, and that their incessant prattling and dumbass chatter is somehow entertaining. This is the only possible reason for having ABSOLUTELY NOTHING happen for the first hour of the film.

There isn’t a single moment of originality here – co-director Scott Bates virtually admits in the extras that the film was made because he saw Paranormal Activity and decided to copy it. The ‘found footage’ aspect is entirely Blair Witch Project inspired, the scary occultist is a pig’s head mask ripped from Saw, the fuckwit characters lifted from any recent British yoof film you care to mention. By coincidence, the film does fit with this year’s British horror theme of slandering occultists (cf: Kill List, The Devil’s Business), though The Tapes also manages to throw in a Daily Mail-approved suggestion that people into BDSM are psycho cult murderers. Well done.

The TapesThis is the sort of film that has battery counters and REC buttons on screen to remind you that it’s supposedly shot on a camcorder – despite no camera I’ve ever used burning that information onto the tape – and expects you to believe that despite the farm being clearly identified and the ‘swingers’ faces all captured on tape, the police have been unable to solve this crime. Perhaps they, like us, have watched the footage and concluded that the murderers actually did the world a favour. It pretends to be shot on camcorders, but doesn’t have the courage of its convictions (or trust of its actors) to actually do so (as the behind-the-scenes footage shows).

With no script, the dialogue is improvised, and the end results are every bit as good as that suggests. The best I can say about the cast is that they seem to fit their parts perfectly, Sparkes in particular playing a talentless, fame-hungry idiot with remarkable precision. The film has a great central location, and the luck of being filmed during a snow-laden winter, and somehow manages to waste the visual opportunities of both. Shot in six days, it looks like it was made in two.

The Tapes takes all the worst aspects of British cinema and grafts them to a piss-poor horror film. It lurches from disaster to disaster, without having a single moment that even hints that it could’ve been good. With a final scene that you suspect is supposed to be emotionally devastating but instead is hilariously inept, The Tapes is a breathtakingly awful film.





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