Again, I’ll start with this for the uninitiated: I tend to like found-footage-format films … so, if you don’t, then you might want to already head out to explore someone else’s review. This isn’t to say that I’ll automatically give a film of this sort a high rating; rather it’s only to make the reader aware that because I like them I tend to spend a bit more time defending the merits of the story than you probably want to hear. Now, that said, SX_TAPE really is little more than much of the same; however, at its core, there’s a terrific little presence worth your time provided by actress Caitlyn Folley. So if you’d like to know more, then hang on for this brief pause …
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging: “Jill’s an artist. Ian’s a filmmaker. And their love is off the chain. There’s no experience too wild, no dare too dangerous – not even when Jill lets Ian stray her to a gurney in the abandoned hospital they’re scoping out for their next art show. But he shouldn’t have left her alone. Not even as a joke. Now, Jill’s hookup with horror has awakened something in that place. Something with a lust for more than flesh.”
Yes, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT has wrought something unto modern cinema that many folks long tired of, but as SX_TAPE reminds those prudes we’ve certainly come a long way (baby) given the fact that we’re now trafficking in found-footage-sex! Though there’s obviously some hyped appeal around such an idea, to suggest that SX_TAPE only capitalizes on skin would be a disservice … for there is a great performance in a wealth of set-up delivered by relative newcomer Caitlyn Folley. She’s shows us an artist who almost naughtily down-to-Earth, willing to bare all for her budding filmmaker boyfriend who’s far too obsessed with capturing her on film when he ought to be holding her in his arms for good measure.
In the picture’s (roughly) forty minute set-up, Jill welcomes the audience in to her world (hint: there’s an obligatory set-up with a police detective from the beginning that honestly should’ve been left on the cutting room floor). She shows us her life, her art, her apartment, her attitudes, … her boobs. (Yes, fanboys, they’re in here, too.) And she does so in such a way as if to inebriate us with her very presence. After all, why else would any man with half-a-brain follow this lovely devil into an abandoned hospital? For – have we forgotten? – all abandoned hospitals are indeed haunted! Always have been. Always will be.
Once the film segues into those haunted hallways, it honestly stops being all that interesting (yes, it’s still full of thrills and chills, and there’s a particular effective scare wherein the audience knows things have gone decidedly wrong for Jill). Because this has been done before – I can think of three found-footage-flicks set in abandoned hospitals I’ve watched in just the last year – there really needs to be something vastly more novel or inspired than what writer Eric Reese left in director Bernard Rose’s capable hands. Otherwise, the scares become increasingly predictable if not downright pedestrian.
In fact, there’s a little coda (an epilogue) tacked on after the legitimate footage found that serves as the bulk of SX_TAPE’s story, and precisely because it’s tacked on really cheapens the story that came before. I won’t spoil it for you, but I’ll just say that more than anything having this little sequence perhaps shows that the film really wanted nothing more in its tank than that joint appeal of found-footage AND sex tapes. That’s a honest shame because the Jill from the first forty minutes was vastly more interesting than the Jill who shows up for this feature’s last 45 seconds … and I’d much rather spend more time with her, largely owed to Folley’s honest and earthy performance.
SX_TAPE (2013) is produced by Aeroplano and La.Lune Entertainment. DVD distribution is being handled by Well Go USA Entertainment (seriously, they have a terrific catalogue of titles). As for the technical specifications? Well, again, I hate to beat a dead horse but this is a found-footage-format flick, so you can expect all of the good and the bad that traffics hand-in-hand with similar productions, including the herky-jerky camerawork and occasionally muffled miking. Lastly, if you’re looking for in-depth special features then you won’t find them here, but there is a nice 20-minute making-of short that feels more like a bloated advertisement than it should.
(MILDLY) RECOMMENDED. I’m not sure what’s wrong with me as of late (or is it the films?), but when it comes to these found-footage-format flicks I’m honestly having more fun exploring the characters than I am the plot. This isn’t to say that SX_TAPE offers up great characters necessarily worthy of further study; it’s just that the central conceit of the picture – the big scares included – just aren’t nearly as interesting as the work being performed in the set-up. Maybe that’s a bit of evolution for the format. Or maybe it’s just me looking for good things in the wrong places.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Well Go USA Entertainment provided me with a DVD copy of SX_TAPE by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.