If I’d known ahead of time that THE BLACK TAPE was a found-footage style film, I probably would have skipped it. I’ve been bored of this form of storytelling since PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, which is one of my least favorite movies of all time. I’m glad I didn’t though, because THE BLACK TAPE shows true potential for first-time film-maker Ramone Menon, and I think it’s amazing how much was achieved with so little. Truly independent and original cinema needs to be celebrated and not dismissed.
THE BLACK TAPE grabs the attention of the audience quickly, with a well-made hack-and-slash of a nubile blonde bimbo named Nikki (Cassi Ellis). The point-of-view shot reminded me of the famous opening scene from the original HALLOWEEN, and the set-up of Nikki gabbing away on the phone was reminiscent of the death of Casey (Drew Barrymore) in SCREAM. Also, the surveillance footage paired with the brutal murder immediately brings to mind the AUGUST UNDERGROUND trilogy, although it never pushes the envelope to that level of extreme cinema.
The audience of THE BLACK TAPE soon finds out the movie we are watching was recorded, edited, and scored by the killer. I’m pulling for this concept to be awesome, but it’s hard to believe that any psycho-killer is going to take the time to create a movie with a story and orchestrated music. But it’s entertainment, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be realistic. THE BLACK TAPE has a story, it isn’t one-hundred-percent linear. You have to keep an eye on the date in the lower right hand corner of the screen to be able to to keep up. This makes it hard to follow, but at the same time I appreciate the artistic value of the technique.
The idea of a masked intruder breaking into an unsuspecting family’s house to terrify them isn’t original, but the subtle way it’s presented is. Everything sinister seems to start to occur when older sister Stephanie (Melanie Thompson) returns from college. She is the first to go missing. This is originally presented as a kidnapping, and I’m disappointed. I’m seriously hoping this doesn’t turn into some lame psychological drama, similar to GONE GIRL. Where’s the brutality? The whole thing is becoming increasingly hard to stay in the moment as the killer keeps holding up hand-held signs announcing the “chapter” of the movie.
As the family unit starts to fall apart, the only character who seems like a decent human being is the youngest daughter Mary (Viktoria Stonerbrooke). She is sweet and endearing, and plays her part well. On the other end of the spectrum, besides being a whiny bitch, the mother of the family Alana (Elina Madison) is slowly poisoning their bedridden grandfather. Even if they can be a burden, killing old folks is never cool. I keep thinking I’ll be glad to see her die.
The way this masked slasher is running around so blatantly, he would be easily caught. There are some scenes where he is running around in broad daylight. All I keep wondering is whether there’s a reason why. Also, with the daughter Stephanie being kidnapped, why hasn’t the family called the police? Plot holes you can drive a Mack truck through are hard to ignore. THE BLACK TAPE seems to have a manic-identity crisis — it’s really not sure what type of film it is. Is it a home invasion slasher? A psychological thriller? A found-footage torture porn? I guess the answer is D… all of the above. Usually, this would stop me from watching the rest of the movie, but I was thoroughly invested at this point, and for me there is no turning back.
Now that they have discovered that Stephanie is actually dead, the family finally calls the police. What kind of crap is that? If somebody kidnapped a member of my family, that’s the first thing I would do. Characters in horror films are never usually that bright, so this is nothing new.
The rest of the movie seems to drag on until the climax. The younger son Paul (Parker Coppins) goes missing, and all the events seems to be repeating themselves, and then boom… THE BLACK TAPE is finished.
I have to give the filmmakers credit, I didn’t see the big twist ending coming until almost the very end. It was nice that they explained how the killer installed the surveillance cameras throughout the house without being caught. I also appreciated the feeling of voyeuristic claustrophobia with limited set pieces. If you aren’t completely over found-footage horror movies and if you like to support micro-budgeted independent horror, then THE BLACK TAPE will be right up your alley.
Find previous installments of Straight-Out-Of-Straight-To-Video here: