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Movie Review: The Dark Tapes


The Dark Tapes is a found footage horror sci-fi thriller told in four parts as the paranormal invades the lives of ordinary people. This independent horror, which has been compared with V/H/S, was driven by Michael McQuown who served as co-director, writer and creator.

The first story 'To Catch a Demon' follows a physics professor and two assistants, who have been hired to oversee a sleep experiment to observe an inter-dimensional being, which has been disturbing the professor in his sleep. The second story, 'The Hunters and the Hunted', follows in the steps of found footage favourite, Paranormal Activity. We're then whisked into the webcam world of "Cam Girls" as an adult entertainer and her partner seduce a customer. Finally, 'Amanda's Revenge' rounds off The Dark Tapes as a girl rescued from a date rape scenario starts experiencing strange side effects.

The Dark Tapes has a female-led cast starring Cortney Palm, Emilia Ares Zoryan and Brittany Underwood. Palm and Zoryan have experience playing horror with Palm featuring in Zombiebeavers and Zoryan in V/H/S: Viral. Together they go to some dark places in the stripped down 'Cam Girls' webcam segment, while Underwood suffers a strange haunting in 'Amanda's Revenge'. It's a large ensemble, which features a number of up-and-coming talents including South African actress, Jo Galloway, as Susan.

"It wants the people responsible for the latest Ghostbusters movie..."

Being a low budget production, you've got to meter your expectations in terms of production value and choose to marvel at the achievement within its context. The eclectic mix of cinematography, guerilla horror effects and overall feeling is low budget. Luckily, being underproduced can actually enhance horrors and McQuown has done a good job with the resources at his disposal. He's tailored a horror film with merit, which works thanks to earnest performances from a large ensemble, creepy atmosphere and a compelling anthology of horror stories. While many of the formats are familiar, McQuown adds a fresh twist.

The biggest setback in The Dark Tapes is that there's no clear cohesive narrative thread. The stories are choppy and dissimilar in format, rules and theme making it difficult to connect the dots and establish a fixed universe for the "found footage" tales. There's no central character, narrator or device to guide us through the tunnel of dark tapes... making the whole experience alienating and distancing the audience from each of the happenings. This keeps us ever-curious yet detached from the characters, who we never have enough time to invest in or trust. Perhaps these could have worked better if they were presented as short films.

While housed under the umbrella of horror, each story seems like a kernel for a full feature film rather than complete within themselves. It's entertaining by virtue of its unpredictable nature, but frustrating that we're never immersed in any of the environments long enough to form any attachment with the characters. Watching from an arm's length makes the experience hollow and while there are one or two great scares and clever twists... The Dark Tapes simply teases us with some promising starts with what could have been.

McQuown demonstrates his ability and knows the genre well, concocting some juicy horror set ups in the process, but unfortunately there's just not enough follow-through with The Dark Tapes. Perhaps having a better "bed" for all of the tapes to nestle in would make all the difference, giving us the platform to be creeped out rather than bewildered. There's loads of great stuff going on in The Dark Tapes, making it a pity it didn't work out better.

The bottom line: Alienating


 
Spling's Galileo Pick of the Week: Her


Spling's Pick of the Week - Her at V&A Waterfront

HER @ V&A WATERFRONT (20 Apr)

Her's authentic, playful and creative perspective is all thanks to the mind of Spike Jonze. He brings us a slice-of-life from the future, presenting a very possible trajectory and examining it from the inside out. It's a wonderful, thought-provoking and smart film that connects with us in all the disconnectedness and frailty of life, examining what it means to be human and serving up an original film experience, powered home by a typically strong performance from Joaquin Phoenix.

This quirky, unconventional and futuristic love story is showing under the stars at The Galileo Open Air Cinema.

BOOK TICKETS

 
Talking Movies with Spling - The 100 Year Old Man..., The Act of Killing and Alison


Spling reviews The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Through A Window and Disappeared, The Act of Killing and Alison as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Catch Talking Movies on Fridays at 8:20am and Saturdays at 8:15am every week on Fine Music Radio.

 
Movie Review: Alison


Alison is the powerful true story of a South African woman, who reclaimed her life after being raped, disemboweled, nearly decapitated and left for dead. Directed by Uga Carlini, this part documentary, part docudrama and has been treated like a fairy tale, getting the inside story from various interviewees, who helped Alison along her journey. Sitting on a throne and set against sketches of the moments they witnessed, each are ascribed a fantasy title like Knight, Sage or Bard for their heroic efforts.

These insights are interwoven into a gritty docudrama as the film gets straight into the incident as Alison describes her thoughts and feelings in the build-up and aftermath of the brutal and senseless attack. These inserts star Christia Visser as a young Alison in a well-cast, equally honest and generous performance. Her experience playing the abused title character, Tess, makes the two films interlinked and must have made it easier for her to slip into the appropriate mindset. While there's no dialogue and the sexual violence isn't as graphic as it could have been, these scenes are intense and grisly. Zak Hendrikz takes on a difficult role as the perpetrator, Frans du Toit, whose evil seems limitless and without conscience.

Delving back to the incident through this dramatisation with the survivor narrating her own tale, this amazing true story is peeled away layer by layer as we investigate the medical, police and judiciary procedure following her brutal attack. From the man who stopped to help, the anesthetist who facilitated her care, the on duty police officer, her legal representative, writing partner, a work colleague friend and the judge who presided over her case, we get a well-rounded picture of the highly publicised crime and the process of healing and restoration.

Alison Movie

"..."

While the fairy tale and butterfly theme connect the dots and soften the harsh reality, the film functions like a comprehensive scrapbook filled with sketches, footage, photos, reports and newspaper clippings. The creative and eclectic frame for the story makes it more sentimental, intimate and gives it a homemade feeling as if Alison was bestowing her story as a gift to us. Her role as curator of the docudrama gives us a first-hand account of her journey through deeply honest and vulnerable storytelling as she shares her painful yet miraculous path.

Alison's inconsistent, yet the miraculous true story, artful design, intimate storytelling and emotional currency make this inspirational docudrama worth seeing. There are moments where Alison seems to be leaning towards self-promotion in echoing her motivational talks and bestselling book, 'I Have Life'. However, her "choose life" philosophy and heartfelt sincerity in helping others by sharing her tragedy and victory smooths things over, made all the more timely based on the judicial system's mishandling of the case. While it has a deckled edge, it's from the heart and makes a moving, honest, inspiring, self-empowering and detailed account of her story up until now.

The bottom line: Heartfelt


 
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