Tape 407 (2012)

Directed by: ,
Written by: ,
Starring: , ,


This review contains some spoilers


As with my review for The Beast Must Die I want to preface this by saying I had absolutely no plans on reviewing this movie; instead it was finally going to be pedo-shocker Megan is Missing (which is sort of worth watching.) However, going through the DVD chart in my local Sainsbury’s I saw Tape 407 hanging comfortably just outside the top 10. This means at least a few people must have picked up a copy, taken it home then tried to pretend they liked it just long enough to see the monster (and promptly given up hope on it). Dwelling on this, I figured it was my duty as a horror fan to warn other horror fans away from letting them be a part of this mental image. Looking at the box you could be forgiven for thinking it might be reasonably entertaining. ‘Tense and terrifying’. ‘A twist ending to leave you breathless’.  The plot’s actually not bad too. It’s a found footage movie wherein a plane crashes in to a mysterious desert where’s beasts running around (more on that later), a military presence and even the promises of a government cover up. Maybe the quotes on the cover are dead on. I can tell you they’re not. I’m not saying these journalists were on the payroll from the distributors, but I would wonder exactly what context these words were written in.

Given that Tape 407 was shot in just five days and entirely improvised – because the cast wanted to make  then one would be right to approach it with caution. Casting aside clichés regarding why the protagonist is still filming, a key problem is that every scene is a single shot long, typically lasting about 10 minutes between cuts. As a little conjecture, I would assume this stylistic decision was made to allow for a whole feature length production to be shot in less than a week; if you can get a whole 10 minutes done at once then great, right? But the pacing really suffers because of it. On one had the improvised nature lends a certain rawness to proceedings, but on the other it means the conversations are maybe a little too realistic in that they often go on far longer than is strictly necessary, and mostly full of filler. A decent script is not one that is necessarily realistic. Instead it’s one that sounds authentic, but with all the excess fat cut out.

A good film script should tell something in five minutes that would typically take 15 in real life. In this respect Tape 407 is gritty realism since nothing that happens in it happens at the pace you want it to. Instead the various crash victims scream at each other for a while, regurgitate the self-same points until monotony, the bald fat guy does something irrational and apologises, and then occasionally they all run in to a building to do more of the same. This formula repeats and repeats for close to an hour and a half. Sure, eventually the plot picks up and bodies start hitting the floor. But by then you’ll be too bored to really care. Actually ‘bored’ is a word that perfectly captures my feelings during Tape 407. The movie plays its trump card early, with the crash sequence being the only bit where the improvised nature succeeds in capturing a feeling of urgency. But after I found it slow to the point that I wouldn’t pause it to go to the bathroom.

Another big problem with Tape 407 is the monster. From a fairly early stage it is clear what’s hunting – or at least screeching near – the protagonists. A dinosaur. And believe me that’s a big problem. I’m a firm believer that once a horror movie does something a little too stupid, thus breaking the tension, then it’s near impossible for it to be effective again. As with how Grave Encounters had the rooms move, Tape 407 features a dinosaur. And once it’s been said that the monster is a dinosaur then the rest of the movie’s got all the tension of eating a ready meal a day after it’s use by date. The dinosaur hardly gets any screen time either. Now, through minimal exposure to the beast I can understand how a skilled director may be able to create tension around a shark (Jaws). Likewise a creepy alien (Alien). I’ve even seen tension done properly with a giant silver fish (Absentia).

But a dinosaur?

It can’t be done.

Sure, Jurassic Park had some fairly tense moments – the glass in the cup, and the disappearing goat – but then Jurassic Park was very openly an adventure film that was never afraid to give the creatures a physical presence. In Tape 407 we see it once during the movie – for a split second – and then again at the very end. But as soon as the big reveal has been made that it’s a dinosaur then any chance the movie’s potential to freak you out is – if you pardon the pun – extinct. If a movie is going to feature dinosaurs then the pace has to justify their presence. Take the recent found footage horror, Evidence. Evidence similarly had large beasts in it (not dinosaurs, but certainly still rather hulkish). But Evidence also featured a very visceral final third of it where they were bursting through walls, jumping cars and eating up bullets like there’s no tomorrow. Tape 407 has none of that. Instead it offers a boring, slow paced dinosaur movie. The worst kind of dinosaur movie. It’s sole redeeming feature is that in a small oeuvre consisting of Tape 407 and Raptor, Tape 407 is arguably the more accomplished piece.

So all in all I recommend staying away from Tape 407. It’s slow. It’s repetitive. And above all it’s boring. This review has very possibly been exactly the same, I realise that, but then it’s a case of form underlies meaning. But if I’ve stopped even one person spending money on this movie then I’ve done what I set out to do. And besides, at least this review isn’t in the top 20 at Sainsbury’s.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆



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About david.s.smith 459 Articles
Scottish horror fan who is simultaneously elitist and hates genre snobbery. Follow me on @horrorinatweet

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