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. It would seem that this is the only type of horror movie they make these days. We’ve seen a lot of these this year with The Devil Inside, Grave Encounters and yet another instalment of the Paranormal Activity franchise. Recently I caught up with Tape 407 (AKA Area 407). I became aware of this production in April and was vaguely interested because it included dinosaurs within the found footage format. I was hoping that this would make the film sufficiently different to others and provide a new experience. 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 irritating 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. 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 potential predators on the loose.
There are brief glimpses of good ideas in Tape 407, as well as a great deal of shouting and strident arguments conducted in that very American manner. It is very annoying and grating on the ear but certainly has a note of realism about it. The survivors learn over the course of the story to be be more logical as they finally realise the magnitude of their predicament. However, these aspects are under developed and further hampered by a cast of characters I didn’t really care for. The shocks are somewhat obvious and surprisingly understated. Too much so in fact. 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 its the movies selling point.
There’s a fine line between being ambiguous and letting the audience fill in the blanks and just 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, the Air Marshall Laura (Melanie Lyons) was dispatched in a very mean spirited way. Mercifully the dénouement was appropriately downbeat and the remaining cast where killed, offering an unexpected highpoint to a somewhat formulaic ninety minutes.
I don’t know whether budgetary restraints or simply notions that less is more, where the reason the production was so shy of showing the movies villains. If it was the directors (Dale Fabrigar and Everette Wallin) intention to sideline them just as a plot device so he could focus on the human dynamics, then it was a very poor decision. Overall the poor pacing, noisy performances, frustrating characters and lack of action sideline any good aspects of Tape 407, leaving the viewer 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 2013 is going to continue to provide these cheap sideshows.