The Dark Tapes (2017) Review

darktapes1The Dark Tapes (2017) Review

Directors: Vincent J. Guastini, Michael McQuown

Writer: Michael McQuown

Stars: David Hull, Brittany Underwood, Cortney Palm

Runtime: 98 min

Plot (from IMDB) – A genre-defying mixture of horror, sci-fi, myth, mystery and thrills told as four interlocking tales in one intelligent anthology. Ghosts, spirits, creatures, demons and more from the paranormal world collide with rational curiosity.

It’s getting to that time of year again when my family start to get excited about the horror aficionado’s favourite time of year, Halloween! As well as sorting out the kids costumes, one of the things we do in our house is work out what our Halloween night film marathon will consist of. Normally, the only anthology we would choose to watch is the fantastic “Trick r Treat,” as in our experience no other anthology has lived up to its standards. So when I got the chance to review the new “found footage” anthology, The Dark Tapes, I was both curious and excited to see if it could punch above its weight and compare to our Halloween favourite.

darktapes2“The Dark Tapes”, the brainchild of writer/director Michael McQuown and his co-director, veteran make up artist Vincent J. Guastini, is a found footage anthology that mixes sci-fi, horror and mystery throughout its four interlinked segments. I know it might sound like a rip off of the likes of V/H/S/ and the afore mentioned Trick r Treat, but the originality of the segments endings make it worth the watch.

Before we get into the film’s main segments, we are treated to a tone setting intro where we see Marie (SARAH CASTRO) and Sam (DAVID BANKS) arriving at theatre that appears to be the scene of some sort of gruesome murder. There’s a blood stained bed, and weird recording equipment strewn all over. There is also a video camera, which when turned on take us into the first segment.

That first segment is called “To Catch a Demon” and is “recorded” by physics professor, Martin (David Rountree), his assistant Nicolle (Cortney Palm of SUSHI GIRL’S fame!)and Jason (Matt Magnusson), who has been hired to record an experiment. We find out that Martin has suffered a kind of sleep paralysis for years where he feels he is visited by “something.” He is now determined to prove that these things are actually inter-dimensional beings trapped in our world. Naturally, our trio of brainiacs get a little more than they bargained for!

darktapes6It’s the subject of these beings, and why we perceive them as terrifying that links us nicely into segment two, “The Hunters and the Hunted”. This segment is one that you have to stick with right to the end. At first, I just rolled my eyes as it looked like it was just going to be another rehash of the oversold “family moves into a haunted house, but refuse to just move out” story. But seriously, make sure you watch it all the way through, as the payoff is more than worth it…

Third up, and in the position that we normally call the “piss break” segment (if were watching it in the cinema) as its normally the weakest of the anthology to set up a big finale, is “Cam Girls.” We meet Caitlin (Emilia Ares Zoryan), who has recently moved to “The City” and has even more recently started a relationship with Sindy (Anna Rose Moore). Sindy loves nothing more than having sex on camera for paying punters, but one day she decides to give one lucky guy a free show. Gerry (Aral Gibble), the “winner”, is told to prepare for the show of his life, but unfortunately the girls actually meant the LAST show of his life. This is a real “WHAT THE FUCK” segment.

darktapes4To finish off, we visit the world of alien abduction with “Amanda’s Revenge.” Amanda (Brittany Underwood) is at a party is slipped a date rape drug by a guy she considered one of her best friends, but luckily is rescued from the inevitable rape that would have taken place. Unfortunately, she starts experiencing strange (what she considers) side effects, such as time loss, black outs and personality changes. She tries everything to sort them out to no avail, until part of her ordeal comes back to her. She decides she know what to do put things right and starts formulating a plan, but does it work? I’m going to leave this one here as it’s a payoff that is worth seeing unspoilt!

Now that we have done with the plot (sorry if it was long winded), I think I’ll start with the films negatives. Firstly, is an issue which plagues all low budget film makers, and that is the production values. Now, I’m sure like me you will have seen a lot worse, but it still detracts from the overall viewing experience. On the same lines, the creature effects in the film are really bad, and we found ourselves chuckling at them while ever they were on screen.

darktapes5Secondly while the endings and payoff’s of the segments are generally impressive, the themes themselves are very unoriginal, and can be found better done elsewhere. It’s a shame, as if the segments as a whole were as original as the endings, then we would be on to a real winner.

Lastly, is a sub-genre wide issue with found footage style films. Why the hell would they be carrying a camera? Segment one get around this, as does section 3, but the others just made no sense. With the amount of these style films being churned out, film makers really need to be creative to solve this issue.

OK, on to my favourite bit, the positives! Firstly, I have to mention the acting. Anyone who watches indie films will know just how diverse the acting quality can be. In The Dark Tapes, the creators manage to get decent performances from almost the entire cast, which is a testament to their ability as film makes as much as the actors ability. I think Cortney Palm is the standout, but everyone does themselves proud.

Secondly, the scripts, which are great for all four segments. A particular gem though is “The Hunters and the Hunted.” The actors were given a terrific short story to work with. The dialogue was crisp and never felt like the cast had to force the lines.

darktapes3To wrap this review up, I have to say I wish there was more money to make the film. If McQuown could have afforded better production values and creature design it would, along with the great acting and impressive scripts, made this a must see movie. He attempted to gat around the constraints by focussing more on storytelling and character work, and to an extent it worked. If you can overlook the issues I’ve outlined, then I’m pretty sure you will be entertained!


An Interview with Zombeavers Star Cortney Palm by Dean Sills

cort2An Interview with Cortney Palm by Dean Sills

UKHS -Thank you for your time, Cortney and welcome to UK Horror Scene. I know you are a theatrically trained actress. Can you please tell us how did the transition into film occur and what is it about the horror genre that you enjoy so much?

CP – The transition into film was gradual. I was studying at California Lutheran University and was a part of the theater program when I saw a casting notice for a short film. I decided to submit to the notice (which was an extra role) and on that set I learned what SAG was and more about what it takes to make a film. I later signed up with Central Casting and began working in the background of film and TV. I always wanted to be a film actor, but I literally knew nothing coming into it. I am still learning!

I have always enjoyed watching horror films and to be honest, they were the easiest films to book and the community is so small that I was able to get some form of consistent work.

cort10UKHS – Congratulations on the UK TV premiere of ‘Zombeavers’. The film is showing daily on Sky Movies at the moment. I really enjoyed watching it and loved your performance as Zoe. How cool was it playing a sexy zombeaver-killing badass and are you ever going to look at beavers the same way again?

CP – First of all, thank you! Second of all Zoe was quite an amazing character to play and I had a blast getting to know everyone on set and work each day.

I went to Idaho last year and saw beavers in across a river and I was a bit fearful! Not because the beavers could be zombies, but because I really have never seen a real beaver before! (stealing a line from the movie!) I absolutely love and respect animals, but I doubt I would have gotten in the water near them with my new irrational fear. haha!

cort1UKHS – I have seen some great footage of you doing gymnastics on Youtube and I know you did all your own stunts on ‘Silent Night’ and this is awesome, well done! Did you do all your own stunts in ‘Zombeavers’ and was that really you or a stunt double in the scene when Zoe escapes by jumping through a window?

CP – I miss gymnastics so much. I think there needs to be a film about it and I could play a coach who is nostalgic and is living through her gymnasts careers and in the end she finds some form of acceptance and joy. As we age we tend to miss the things we used to do as kids and I feel like we make ourselves grow up instead of staying young. Anyway, I do most of my own stunts; however, on *Zombeavers* my double jumped out the window and crashed the car through the house. I did the rest of the stunts. I did get injured on set from a stunt that malfunctioned, and that just reiterates why we have a stunt double team. If the actors get hurt, you don’t have a movie. I would love to be in a film where I can do more. Something such as Underworld or Tomb Raider, both Kate and Angelina did most of their own work!

UKHS – Talking of ‘Silent Night’. I loved your role in this as Maria and the wood chipper scene which was brilliant. How scary was it filming a scene like this and how long did it take to shoot?

CP – If I remember correctly it was a three day shoot for me and we shot the wood chipper scene the first day! No one can really teach you how to die a horrible death like that, so I had really one shot to make it work and a really great SFX team behind me. I remember getting into the shaft and sticking to the blood. We had to pour water on me so I could slide down! But it was fun and I lived to tell the tale!

cort3UKHS – OK, I have to ask you about ‘Sushi Girl’. How did you get the role ? Did you enjoy working with Mark Hamill (Star Wars) and how difficult were the scenes when Sushi is served on your beautiful naked body as the con men eat their dinner and you are lying completely still?

CP – I always browse LA Casting looking for roles and I saw a casting which said must be comfortable nude. I have done a lot of nude and implied modelling so I was comfortable with the content. I was called in and the next thing I know I was naked at call-backs lying on a table! Pretty sure my amazing boobs got me the part! That aside… :)….. I thoroughly enjoyed working with everyone. Each actor brought their A game every day and I didn’t mind having to lay for hours on the table. The only downside was if I had to use the ladies room we would have to undress the sushi and then redress it when I came back. So I tried not to eat or drink! Otherwise, lying still for so long wasn’t a big deal because I was completely invested in that character and it didn’t bother Sushi Girl because she was on a mission and she wasn’t about to fail.

UKHS – What is the hardest role that you have had to play and do you go to extreme lengths to prep for your parts and stay in character?

CP -Well extreme would be Shia pulling out his own tooth and I am nowhere near THAT! I definitely take the time to read the script multiple times, and not just my scenes because there is always something in the script that can help shape your character, especially given circumstances. The hardest role hasn’t really come my way yet, but I do look forward to that day. My favourite role was Sushi Girl, and I also loved Zoe. Keep an eye out for my new exciting role of Detective Kate in Bond: Kizuna (which we are currently getting funding for and I will post the crowd-funding information as it comes) She is someone I can’t wait to tackle!

cort9UKHS – If you were stranded on a desert island, which three items would you want to have with you?

CP – Now this is a tough one. Are the items something we can bring with us, or items we hope the deserted island has? If the first, then I would bring my two dogs, a water purifier, and a machete. If the latter, then I would hope for coconuts, large palm fronds, and wood!

UKHS – Finally, are you currently working on any new projects which you can tell UKHS all about?

CP – I am currently involved the development of several films and trying to get a few others off the ground. I am going to be working on The Final Table, Blood Moon, Bond: Kizuna and hopefully I will be able to get two scripts off the ground that my amazing writer colleagues have written. One is a horror feature and the other is a futuristic apocalypse story. Otherwise, I am still looking for the next big role that I can sink my teeth into. Hopefully something soon!

Thank you for the interview! Cheers!

cort7UKHS – You’re welcome! Thank you for your time and keep up the great work,


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