Movie Review - SX_TAPE
Eric Reese's SX_Tape is yet another underwhelming offering from the found footage genre, which uses the same tricks we've seen time and time again from the style, without ever finding its' own voice. From the filming location down to the film 'beginning with the ending,' there's not much here that you haven't seen before. In fact, the only thing original about the film is its' attempt to fuse a bit of raw sexuality with the same haunted house tropes we've come to expect from the genre, though it fails to make this movie stand out from the rest. Now, if SX_Tape was the work of a first time director, I would be grading it a little less stringently. But the fact of the matter is that this is the work of Bernard Rose, the brilliant director of Candyman and Immortal Beloved, and therefore I expected much more from the film. Yet sadly, I was extremely disappointed, and though the fault doesn't lay squarely on the director in this case, a man of his experience should have been able to elevate this into something far more interesting.
As I stated before, the film opens with the ending and then jumps backwards in time letting the story fill itself in, a technique that seemingly exists to immediately justify all of the times in the film where there is absolutely no logical reason the characters would continue recording. A young couple, Jill (Caitlyn Folley) is a young and overtly sexual young artist who paints nudes from photographs of her friends. Her boyfriend Adam (Ian Duncan), who spends ninety-eight precent of the film as a disembodied voice behind the camera, iso obsessed with filming everything. Soon he is filming Jill is various states of undress, and even when they are engaging in some intimate physical contact - hence the title of the film. When searching the city, they come upon an abandoned medical hospital (filmed at the infamous Linda Vista Memorial Hospital also featured in The Den and Insidious Chapter 2) and decide it might make an excellent location for one of Jill's art shows. Against his wishes, Adam is persuaded to go into the building to look around. They find that they are being pursued by a Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff, and are forced to push deep into the hospital in order to elude being arrested. After the officer leaves, they decide to explore for a while in order to avoid a confrontation. Once inside though, they begin to suspect that they are not alone in the building.
The movie from here on out unfolds with a series of character decisions, all of which will leave you shaking your head in utter disbelief. Though I don't want to spoil them for those of you who do decide to check it out. I am willing to chalk some of the issues with the script up to the fact that this is the screenwriter's first outing, but there are some plot holes here that any film school student could drive a truck through. Perhaps his biggest sin is the way he writes the character of Jill. Because if you're going to make someone the focus of nearly every frame of the movie, please don't make them so god damned annoying. I mean, the whole point is for me to fear for these characters, not to make them so abrasive that I start hoping they die long before the film has even reached it's halfway point. This isn't a critique of the actors in the film, but instead, the way their characters were written. I actually though the cast handled the script as best they could, but the truth of the matter is that this concept was too thin to be stretched into a feature length film and feels long even at eighty-two minutes. It feels like an idea for a film that was never fully fleshed out, and leaves the viewer wanting answers. Add to that the over use of the 'shaky cam' footage which varies in degrees between nauseating and downright maddening. And the final moment in the film, which is nothing more than a cheap gag meant to shock, is laughably bad.
I really don't know what, if anything, I can say in this films defense. Sometimes when you step up to the plate, you swing and miss. And I feel like that's what happened here. There's no shame in it. Every piece of art created is worth celebrating. I look forward to seeing what's to come out of writer Eric Reese, I won't say I've lost any respect for the immensely talented Bernard Rose, and I commend the performances of the entire cast. But I would still advise you to proceed with caution here. If your tastes are anything like mine, you'll want to skip it. It pains me to do it, but here it is…
- Leo Francis