Tape 13. 2014. Directed Axel Stein. Screenplay by Jan-Oliver Lampe.
Starring Nadine Petry, Lars Steinhöfel, Cristina do Rego, Sonja Gerhardt, Lars Walther, Pit Bukowski, & Uwe Rohde.
Rat Pack Filmproduktion/Stein Media.
Unrated. 81 minutes.
A staunch defender of the found footage sub-genre, when used correctly, I’m always willing to give a movie the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes a found footage movie suffers from highly amateur acting, even worse than its handheld cinematography. Other times, the story is just far too derivative of other movies which came before it. Tape 13 doesn’t pretend to offer anything different than any other found footage horror. Nor does it ever offer anything up worth indulging. Riffing on minor parts of The Blair Witch Project while giving us nothing of its own that’s at all scary, there isn’t much that makes this fun. Following all the motions of usual films in the sub-genre director Axel Stein spends the better part of an hour winding us up before ripping off more found footage movies, far more exciting ones.
Nothing worse than a boring movie, except a boring one that steals its most promising bits.
The acting in Tape 13 is plain and simple some of the worst. Everything, from everyone, is downright wooden, the lines like they’re being forced out of people. Outside of a few moments, the actors feel as if they’re awkward on camera. And that’s not in a way that it becomes part of the character. Rather, these characters feel totally fake. So that automatically takes you out of their little world. You don’t relate to any of them because the performances are really bad.
Plot-wise, Tape 13 does nothing with its found footage premise. It’s another one of those same stories where a few people are in the woods, strange things happen, relationships break down, someone complains about the person filming everything. And the beat goes on. Every now and then we’re treated to a little bit of pixelation, as the camera goes nuts. A jump scare-like moment now and then. Worst of all, the screenplay borrows elements from The Blair Witch Project heavily. Sure, it’s hard not to draw comparisons between movies if they’re in the found footage format and involve people in the woods. But this one liberally uses bits and pieces of that classic horror. On top of that there is nothing in the pay off. Things happen, yet none of the things we experience during the finale of the film makes it worth investing our time. Not a long movie, though, 81 minutes can stretch on if there’s nothing by the end to make it any bit enjoyable.
It’s sad because the parts that this movie does lift from other sources, primarily Blair Witch, are some of the creepier moments. For instance, the shards of mirror or glass that were being left around, those were eerie. Even if their inclusion was too close to the film’s biggest inspiration. What I dig is the creepy old man lurking out in the woods, when they spot him with the flashlight that was unsettling. But again, everything devolved into less homage, more copy and paste. The finale started off seeming as if it might be scary. Then as it wore on closer to the finish that too emulated too closely the ending of Blair Witch, as if that movie’s ending had gone on a few moments longer. It wasn’t as if the shots were directly mirrored, but the similarities are too close for comfort. In addition to all these negative elements, the whole thing is very cheap to look at. Some found footage movies can make their atmosphere and their appearance look better than expected on a low budget. This one does nothing to make itself look nice. And not to say it’s needed – look at the movie which inspired this one most, that was grainy and shaky and it’s still one of my favourite found footage films. Within a movie that holds nothing else impressive, they could’ve at least tried doing something visually to make the horror work.
I’ll give the movie a single star. Simply for the couple actually, genuine scenes with a creep factor. Those were only a couple, not even a handful. As I said, the old guy out along the periphery of the woods, the glass shards, some of that stuff did work. Just not enough to make this movie worthwhile. Not once did it excite me. Even the one time I did jump was due to some glitchy editing, far too cheap to be considered a legitimate scare. So if you do come across this one as I did a little while back – don’t expect anything to thrill you. This is 81 long, drawn out minutes that you could spend watching a better low budget found footage flick, or something else that’s actually going to frighten you.