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September 30, 2014

Movie Review: SX_Tape (2012; Well Go USA)

...the pursuit, and subsequent taking on of yet another entry, from a tired, repetitive, well-worn and now-way-too-often emulated sub-genre, seems...well, seems synonymously not unlike that of the tired meanderings and lamentations of a certain well-known commercial pastry proprietor...you remember this guy, right?? Up at the wee hours of the morning. dragging his feet out of the bedroom and into the bathroom...murmuring an unenthusiastic groan of "gotta make the donuts"...slowly slogging his way out the front door, and into his car..."gotta make the donuts"...a lethargic, waddling shuffle through the front door of the shop..."gotta make the donuts". Day in, and day out...same old, same old, right??...

...indeed, a comparative and poignant template, not that far removed from applicably describing the readied expectations and ho-hum routine one must endure, in going into yet another supernatural and/or paranormal-themed 'found footage' film production. We've seen them all, right?? Oh, heck...Mickey Mouse roll call, sound off now: ...the shaky, nausea-inducing camera work. The film's singularly assigned or assumed camera operator, barely seen in the film, but insistent upon having the camera affixed to his or her face, to catch every moment, whether important or trivial. The token complainer, often the aim and focus of the camera operator, whining incisively about "why do you have to film this??", "do you have to film everything", and yet, still insistent upon being the 'director', with a pointed finger, saying 'film this', 'film that', and the occasional slinky, sexy, sultry and revealing 'uh, film this'...not to mention the wayward 'did you see/hear that??', only to reveal that it's nothing...right before something does happen. The random inner-splicing of personal footage, amidst the 'discovered' footage of intent, suggesting that the camera operator just grabbed the nearest tape in a huff, little realizing that there was 'personal stuff' already on it (...what, no Radio Shack, on route to the ghostly scene?). And of course, the reveal of the nasty little invasive supernatural entity...playfully and mysteriously moving things, at first...then, progressively frustrated and angered, either materializing at the most impromptu moments, or possessing the nearest hapless person within reach, giving the cautious voyeurs a hard time, and rushing suddenly  & frighteningly face-first into the camera lens...all creeped out, ghastly-looking, unnervingly black-eyeballed and hideously toothsome. Uh, did we forget anything??...



...and so, along comes a somewhat deceptive looking (...by the cover art, and the title) addition to the 'found footage' bunch, and in going into "SX-Tape"...uh well, here we go again (...with an unmotivated dragging of the feet, and an angst, tiresome murmur)...'gotta make the donuts...gotta make the donuts...gotta.....

...Jill (Caitlyn Folly) and Adam (Ian Duncan), an intimately playful and eagerly exhibitionist couple, living in greater Los Angeles County area...she, an aspiring artist, and he, despite unmentioned vocation, has a marked obsession with capturing spontaneous moments on video...who genuinely get their rocks off, in filming each other on the fly, find that their regular diet of spontaneous and impromptu, reciprocative home video-produced voyeurism is getting inordinately stale and un-alluring. And so, in search of alternate ways of spicing up their video-enhanced love lives, they happenstance come across what appears to be a long fenced-up, boarded up hospital. Adam proves last-minute reluctant to explore, and against his wishes, Jill...the more adventurous of the two...slides through a hole in the property's fence, and eventually coerces her nervous & wary beau to join her, rolling video camera and all...
...once having broken inside the already broken-down facility, Jill and Adam set their modes to exploration, seemingly drawn to every creak, squeak and leak which they believe that they hear (..."...hear that?? Let's go check it out..."); Jill also starts waxwrapsonicating about how uniquely and alluringly creepy perfect this place would serve, as far as a gallery for her artistry. When they pass by a room, which appears to have a filthy sheeted bed, adorned in restraining straps, the two go into the room, and quickly set up a faux scenario of sexual kink, using the restraints. And as Adam is filming Jill on the bed...What the...?? A flash of ghostly apparition, seen through the camera lens?? Naw, says Adam, shaking it off, but nonetheless quite spooked. Further creepy noises and 'wasn't that there, a moment ago' moments raise the level of shudder enough for the both of them to finally high-tail it out of the building...just in time to see Jill's car being towed away. And what's with the strange and angry looking vagrants, congregating across the street from the hospital...just standing there, staring in their direction??...

...disdained over having her car towed away, Jill immediately rings up her friend, Ellie, explaining her plight; and as quickly as one might say the words, 'rush to the rescue', Ellie pulls up to the curb, with her boyfriend, Bobby, in tow. But do our motley crew jump into Ellie's getaway car, and high-tail it outta there?? No siree, bob!! Despite the unexplained phenomenon in the hospital, and despite the growing mass of derelicts, gathering across the street, they sally forth back into the dilapidated facility. And so, with Adam's video still rolling amidst these events, further exploration of the hospital ensues, during which time...further weird and startling happenings, take place...Bobby, exasperated over what he thinks is a waste of time, and as such, cannot help but be the dick of the party, making moves on Jill, and flashing a steely pea-shooter, which he'd brought with him...an overall uneasiness washes over the group...and Jill?? Well, she begins to act rather peculiar...almost as if she wasn't quite herself, as the soon-to-be-horrified others, are about to find out...
...now, right off the bat, this viewer...considering that the director of "SX_Tape" was none other than genre famed Bernard Rose, who's career high point was, and...well, in light of these particular mis-steppen proceedings, still is the chilling classic, 1992's "Candyman"...couldn't help but feel just a smidgen of nostalgic deja-vu, in the sense that, like the events of "Candyman", we have here, a protagonist, unwarily yet bravely venturing into an area of potential danger...ominous, broken down, and located in a questionably unsafe area. Or the fact that the site of the macabre events depicted, is the broken down Linda Vista building...often used by Hollywood, for films of this ilk. But as much as this might prove a momentary taste or two of recall, the rest of the film offers little, as far as originality. Yes, we've seen it all before...more effectively executed...in films like "Grave Encounters" and the initial chapters of "Paranormal Activity". And even the macabre offerings herein, seem not fully carried through and fleshed out; in a lot of ways, "SX_Tape" appears to pull it's punches, with moments that might have developed into...well, something unique and different, but ultimately prove a repeated lament to both missed opportunity, as well as 'been there, done that'...like we're watching someone walk through a darkened hallway, with multiple doors to choose from; we, the purveyors, know exactly which doors will prove the most interesting, but as much as we might directionally scream at the characters, unwary of our 'presence' they just seem to keep picking the wrong doors...
...even right off the bat, the rules of suspense, as well as the 'found footage' expectations seem to be thrown to the wayside, as far as this lackluster, routine and overall un-scary entry in the sub-genre; kicking things off, before we are even intimately engaged with the main characters, we are presented with police station surveillance footage of an interrogation with the Jill character, being questioned about the deaths of her friends...the events of which she seems, as far as questioning authority is concerned, to mysteriously and suspiciously be the only survivor of. Sort of begins to give things away, right from the start, doesn't it?? And despite the shit hitting the fan, once things really do get going, albeit predictably (...an ironic word, considering that one of the characters, at one point, expresses a dislike in being monikered as 'predictable'), we, as the audience, don't really get a true handle upon what is happening to the Jill character, when she is possessed by 'whatever it is'...and we genuinely want to know, but unfortunately, "SX_Tape" never fully goes there...
...in the end, "SX_Tape"...which reportedly languished and sat resigningly on the shelves for a couple years... might be better experienced by those who have yet to be initiated into the 'found footage' experience...uh, with accompanying recommendation that there have been better films of it's like, dealt in the past. But for us well-seasoned in this now overly-worn sub-genre...even despite the gruesome and gory, seemingly tacked on, 'ouch, that hurts my parts' shock ending...it's a road trod upon so often before, it's not even worth considering...

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