Tape 407 (2012)
I really won't be sad to see the back of the found footage sub-genre because it really is becoming an over saturated market at present. For example, at the last count there were six Paranormal Activity movies, with their respective quality inversely proportional to their number in the franchise. Yes, there are the occasional good ones, such as the recent Operation Avalanche, which tackled conspiracy theories and the Moon Landing. But broadly speaking, this genre has become a dumping ground for cheap and uninspired movies, by mediocre film makers, out to make a fast buck. Take for example Tape 407 (AKA Area 407). It’s chosen twist on the genre is the inclusion of included dinosaurs. I was hoping that this would make the film sufficiently different to others and offers something new. Predictably it did not.
Tape 407 starts aboard a plane with a motley collection of passengers travelling from New York back to Los Angeles. We meet film student Jessie (Samantha Lester) and her annoying younger sister Trish (Abigail Schrader), Journalist Jimmy (James Lyons) and irritable passenger from hell Charlie (Brendan Patrick Connor). After some rather pedestrian back story and character exposition the plane crashes in a somewhat remote desert region along its route. The survivors bicker and squabble and continuously talk across each other as they try to thrash out a survival strategy. One passenger goes looking for the other half of the plane. Screams and animal noises are later heard in the night. It quickly becomes clear that there are multiple predators on the loose.
There are brief flashes of inspiration in Tape 407, as well as a great deal of shouting and strident arguments conducted in a very American manner. It’s annoying and grating on the ear but certainly has a note of realism about it. The survivors slowly put aside their differences as they finally realise the magnitude of their predicament and attempt to work collaboratively. However, this aspect of the storyline is under developed and further hampered by a cast of characters I didn't really care for. Futhermore, the shocks are somewhat obvious, surprisingly understated and tame. As for the dinosaurs, which appear to be the result of a government experiment, precious little is seen. You simply can't skimp on plot device like this if it’s the movies selling point.
There's a fine line between being ambiguous and letting the audience fill in the blanks as opposed to allowing gaping plot holes. By the time I reached the end of Tape 407, I was annoyed by the lack of information, disappointed by the absence of carnivorous reptiles and thoroughly pissed off with the protagonists. The only worthy character, Air Marshall Laura (Melanie Lyons), was dispatched in a very mean spirited way. Mercifully the director opted for an appropriately downbeat dénouement so the remaining cast where subsequently killed off, offering an unexpected highpoint to a formulaic and unremarkable ninety-minute pot boiler.
I don't know whether budgetary restraints or simply the notion that less is more, where the reason the production was so shy of showing the dinosaur antagonists. If it was, then directors (Dale Fabrigar and Everette Wallin) intention to sideline them so they could focus on the human dynamics, was a very poor decision. Overall the slow pacing, noisy performances and frustrating characters as well as lack of action, torpedoes Tape 407. Viewers are left with a rather dull, predictable and lacklustre movie. I'd like to say that this will be the last found footage I'll be watching for a while but I have a suspicion that due to the cost effective nature of the format, they’ll be churning them out for a while yet.