The Dark Tapes (2017) – Indie Movie Review

NOTE: The following review of The Dark Tapes (2017) will remain spoiler free, avoiding important plot points or twists in order for you to experience the movie how I did.

The Dark Tapes is an independent horror/sci-fi experience that swept the film festival circuit during 2016, reaping 61 wins and/or nominations from it’s 30 festival appearances. It’s a film that audiences through a series of different ‘tapes’ depicting gruesome events that transpired throughout 2015/2016 – tied back to an experiment-gone-wrong that took place back in 2007. Got that?

When The Dark Tapes begins, it burns slowly. From the discovery of a camera, two individuals then stumble upon a bloody experiment-esque setting, that looks to have had dropped into chaos at the some point. The footage found on the discovered camera is checked by the two bewildered characters, therefore throwing us into what happened on each tape and offering a grim insight into the events that had unfolded. I will admit this, when the film first began I did begin to have some doubts sink in. The first tape focuses on an experiment – which is returned to throughout, acting as the spine of this anthology – and the dialogue between the two characters performing these experiments seemed very expositional. It was necessary to explain what the experiment would entail, they were recording their experiment so this exposition did fit how the characters would deliver it, however the abundance of “scientific” terminology and experiment details went on for a little too long, almost causing me to lose interest in the story before it had the chance to properly begin.

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The Dark Tapes (2017)

Apart from this minor issue as the film was gearing up, I can thankfully say that my interest was retained and I did not write The Dark Tapes off. The slow burner approach separately applies to the rest of the tapes that are shown throughout the film – however these are executed much better, building up a tense, edge of your seat atmosphere that you begin to choke on until it climaxes and you are subjected to whatever each tape has in store for you (often being pretty gruesome or chilling, to say the least). The dialogue in general flows naturally throughout, plaudits to the actors and their direction for this. The vast majority of the performances through The Dark Tapes are good, strong performances that work brilliantly with the cinematography decisions to really draw you into the world that’s being presented on screen, feeling very real – and therefore achieving a very creepy, unnerving atmosphere – in the process. The performances of Cortney Palm and David Rountree in the second tape in particular are ones that made me forget that I was watching a film instead of actual found footage.

One of The Dark Tapes most valuable assets is director/writer Michael McQuown’s use of silence. It serves as an effective tool to build up tension and suspense in scenes, one scene in particular had me watching through my hands in anticipation for a character’s potential demise. It’s not the loud bangs or sudden noises you hear that make you on edge – it’s the eerie silences that you find yourself forgetting to breathe to that really do it. It’s this crippling appliance of silence, coupled with the natural dialogue and cinematography, that really absorbs you into these different scenarios. Throughout the film there is plenty of practical effects which are greatly appreciated, the gruesome events that occur make you wince as you watch it – but the film doesn’t rely on only this aspect alone to serve its audiences appetite, making those moments count as particular flashes during its intertwining tale that crosses in and out of many horror sub-genres.

The crafting of scenes bring about an unsettling caution, curiosity and suspense which in turn chills you to the bone and leaves you with a heavy, sinking in the pit of your stomach. As events unfold you find yourself not being able to do anything but watch, even as the rest of your body shudders.

One thing that pulled me out of the film on occasion was the distortion effect used throughout. I understand that this aesthetic choice works for a found footage film, however the effect was overused – taking me out of the experience and allowing me to notice occasional attempts to mask cuts to different takes, etc. Some of the CGI used throughout the film looks the part however there would also be occasional moments where it doesn’t look so particularly good either. Unfortunately, the demon entities which appears throughout lost their scare factor (for me, personally) once I heard their dialogue – but don’t worry, there isn’t much.

Out of all the tapes, I would claim that “Cam Girls” was probably the weakest tape of the anthology, or at least the first half of it. The acting and dialogue during the first half of this tape did not hold up to its counterparts – but the practical effect work that draws my praises did partly come from this tape.Poster_Demon_small

Despite occasional blips, I really did find myself shaken by the first two thirds of The Dark Tapes. Unfortunately it is a film that drops slightly in it’s final third – the quality of the edit drops as the film desperately works to fit everything in and bring it round to a whole. It gradually became hindered by its own ambition because that’s what this film is at the end of the day, an ambitious piece of cinema. The Dark Tapes opted for an intelligent take on the found footage subgenre, trying to take it one step further. The flaws that this movie has are minor ones, little moments, but unfortunately are ones that build up and bring me out of the film and, in turn, water down it’s own sense of horror that it does such a good job of consistently building up. The ambition and vision behind The Dark Tapes is such an applaudable trait of the entire crew, however this sometimes also streams into making the overall story convoluted. This film might have proved to be more effective as a collection of short films rather than one whole piece. However I am confident that if you give these filmmakers, who are obviously very passionate fans of the horror genre, a slightly higher budget to iron out some issues that they’ve had to compromise with on special effects and editing, they are certainly capable of creating a twisted, suspenseful chiller of a horror movie. I look forward to seeing what comes of them next!

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I recommend giving The Dark Tapes a viewing at least once, you may just love it!

It is released on Video On-Demand platforms worldwide on April 18th, the film will also be available on Google Play, Vudu, ONDemand (Comcast- Xfinity, Time Warner, Cox, Bright House & more), Dish TV, Amazon, Vubiquity (Verizon Fios, Charter, Sudden Link, Media Com & more), Xbox, Playstation, Sling TV & Vimeo.

You can purchase The Dark Tapes on iTunes at: https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/the-dark-tapes/id1212096983

 

 

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Ryan Gosling’s Top 5 Acting Performances

It seems to be to almost no one’s surprise that Damien Chazelle’s La La Land has waltzed its way through this years awards season like a romantic, colourful, musical whirlwind. It swept up all 7 of the Golden Globes it was nominated for, collected another 5 honours at this years BAFTAs, and it seems to be on course to take over this year’s Academy Awards (garnering a joint-record 14 nominations). One of the main components of the modern-age musical’s success is the two performances of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, both  of whom have earned Oscar nominations as Sebastian and Mia respectively this year. It is the third motion picture that Gosling and Stone have collaborated on (the first being Crazy, Stupid, Love then followed by Gangster Squad), the success from each being evident through the chemistry they spark between each other on the screen.

In this article I am going to recommend my top 5 personal favourite Ryan Gosling performances to you to go and watch before you see La La Land, therefore excluding it from the list. However; if you have already seen it – which I’m guessing many have since it has already made almost $300m at the Box Office – please feel free to use this list as recommendations to further your experience of Mr Gosling on the big screen. It slightly disappoints me when I hear people label Ryan Gosling as an actor who can only seem to play himself, so I’ve tried to select a varying collection of his performances that hope to show the man’s acting range in better light.

5. Lars and the Real Girl (2007) – Craig Gillespie

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Our first performance on this list is in 2007’s Lars and the Real Girl. It is a tale of a shy young man named Lars (Ryan Gosling), who enters into a delusional mindset and falls in love with Bianca, a lifelike sex doll. The concept sounds silly, but Gosling manages to bring life to this inanimate character throughout the film. Acting opposite nobody Bianca in scenes where no magic should spark, he manages to evoke emotions from himself, the lifeless face of his partner and most importantly, the viewer. Lars and the Real Girl is a very heartwarming story that manages to showcase Gosling as much more than your traditional love interest.

You can watch the trailer here.

4. A Place Beyond the Pines (2012) – dir. Derek Cianfrance

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Ryan Gosling stars opposite his now-wife, Eva Mendes, in A Place Beyond the Pines.

 

A Place Beyond the Pines tells the story of three generations and sheds light on how people can be driven to a life of crime for different reasons. In this film Ryan Gosling portrays Luke Glanton, a motorcyclist who travels with a touring carnival. After he finds out that his former lover has recently given birth to his son, Luke takes to using his riding ability in order to rob a series of banks to try and provide for his new family and be there for his child – unlike his own father.

You can watch the trailer here.

3. Drive (2011) – dir. Nicolas Winding Refn

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The story of Drive focuses around a Hollywood stunt driver who uses his talents to moonlight as a getaway driver for hire. However, he begins to fall for Irene, the girl next door – played by Carey Mulligan. In an effort to help her and her son out, the scorpion decorated wheelman is dragged into something bigger as a heist goes disastrously wrong and he is forced to try and protect them both from a local mob boss.

Gosling’s first collaboration with director Nicolas Winding Refn proved itself worthy after it gained both critical and audience praise, not to mention a cult-following on top of that in the process. Surprisingly, the film was largely snubbed at the bigger award ceremonies off the festival circuit, only attaining one Oscar nomination (Best Sound Editing). This ultra-stylish, neo-noir tale shows Gosling at his most brutal, showcased through some terrific ultra-violence. It also shows his acting ability behind a character who thinks a lot more than he cares to speak or feel. This is not Ryan Gosling playing Ryan Gosling, this is Ryan Gosling encapsulating the mysterious figure of The Driver.

You can watch the trailer here.

2. The Nice Guys (2016) – dir. Shane Black

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Set in 197os Los Angeles, The Nice Guys is an original action-comedy neo-noir about two not-so-perfect Private Investigators who are searching for a young girl named Olivia and a missing adult film star named Misty Mountains. This is the film that officially cements Ryan Gosling as a genuine comic actor. His natural charisma, comedic timing and impressive physical comedy is brilliantly used in this crime caper to full effect. The comedy is heightened even further by the chemistry between him and fellow cast members Russell Crowe and the very impressive Angourie Rice.

The Nice Guys was terribly underappreciated last year, only just making back its money at the Box Office. Film fans complain about the lack of originality in the cinemas these days, then when something original shows up it is pushed aside by the latest blockbuster – a source of immense irritation to me. To put things into perspective, The Nice Guys was topped at the Box Office by The Angry Birds Movie. Am I confident of a sequel? No. Am I hopeful of a sequel? Yes, very hopeful as Holland March and Jackson Healy have proved to be quite the comedic gold together. We can only hope.

You can watch the trailer here.

1. Blue Valentine (2010) – dir. Derek Cianfrancebv_russo1_01

Blue Valentine… oh boy, where do I begin? If you had doubt about Ryan Gosling’s acting chops, look no further. The story follows two intercutting time periods, one depicting how a young Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) fell in love with each other, with the other based six years later showing the two trying to hold onto and desperately salvage their failing marriage.

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“One make-up look in particular is very reminiscent of De Niro in Raging Bull”

This film shows Ryan Gosling at his very best, although he did not receive an Oscar nomination for this performance. He embodies the role of Dean through a powerful set of emotions and make-up (one make-up look in particular very reminiscent of De Niro in Raging Bull). To prepare for this role, Gosling lived in the house they filmed in with Michelle Williams for a month along with the young actress who plays their daughter. During this time the group recreated and filmed hundreds of hours’ worth of home videos and memories such as birthdays and Christmas’ etc in order to develop a true family bond before filming. Michelle Williams received an Academy Award nomination for her performance in Blue Valentine, and both of these two talents return as nominees this year – Gosling for La La Land and Williams for the Boston-drama Manchester by the Sea.

You can watch the trailer here.

Agree with my list? Leave a comment and let me know what your favourite performances are from Ryan Gosling, and let me know your thoughts on his performance in this year’s La La Land. All reading and sharing of this article helps me out so if you decide to do so, thank you very much.