Finally! A film for me and Jason Soto to enjoy. TVIFF is typically a little light in the Horror department but they had one entry this year that was one of my most anticipated of the fest. Here’s the festival breakdown on this one:
THE LEVENGER TAPES – USA, 2011, 90 min
When three students go missing in a rural town, detectives find a videotape left behind. Filmed by the students, the footage becomes more and more disturbing, as the detectives try to piece enough information together to find them before it’s too late.
It’s your basic found footage premise… which I happen to be a sucker for. The easy correlation to make here is The Blair Witch Project but it’s not quite that supernatural of a film. Essentially, some kids head out on vacation to an isolated home in the boonies. On their way, they get into a fender-bender/hit-and-run. When they see the person they hit out in a field near their vacation spot, in a moment of drunken regret, they head out to apologize for the accident and get lost in a nature preserve/Indian Burial Ground.
I don’t want to say much more because I don’t want to ruin the film for anyone that might get a chance to watch it but you can probably do the math and figure out that things go wrong. It’s a pretty standard film for the genre in it’s execution. I will say, one way that it deviates from the typical formula is by using the police as an audience for the film and juxtaposes what happened that night against the police trying to figure out what happened. This is different than your typical title card explaining or dating the footage ala Cloverfield or Paranormal Activity. While that worked well in those films, the deviation was refreshing.
The filmmaker (Mark Edwin Robinson-a local kid who shot the film locally) starts the film off a bit slow but does a good job of building a slow pace for the sake of tension. I also want to commend him on avoiding jump scares. There were no cats jumping out of closets in this one. Mark stuck with the old “creepy sticks cracking in the woods around you” approach. The sound design was also amazing. Maybe my favorite part as it employed some extremely creepy screams and moans.
The creepiest part, however, is probably the film’s inspiration. While riding horses with his father in the area where the film was shot, the two heard a woman moaning for help in the bushes but could not see her. Instead of heading in the brush, like one of the girls in the film, they told her they’d get help and brought the police back with them. The police said there was no sign that anyone had ever been there. CREEPY!
On the plus side, the last thing I want to mention was the cast which was primarily assembled of three Hollywood up-and-comers (Johanna Braddy, Lili Mirojnick, Morgan Krantz), all with great resumes, who did a fantastic job in the film.
Now, with the good comes the bad… the film is a bit flawed in that the kids in the nature preserve make a TON of bad decisions. It’s rare that you watch a Horror movie and don’t think to yourself Don’t go in there! or Why would you do that? In this film, it seems to happen every few minutes. However, it does so to keep the film moving forward and I can deal with that for the sake of scares… and it was a pretty damn scary flick.
I also felt like there was one too many storylines happening here. Robinson makes them work in the end but it does water down some of the other stuff. I actually thought the multiple storylines were a bit confusing. So much in fact that I apprehensively approached the filmmaker after the film to clear up my confusion. In the film’s defense, while I felt confused, according to his explanation of the film, I had known exactly what happened the whole time. So, maybe it was me that was unclear and not the film after all.
In the end, I dug the film. I don’t know how it would do in theaters. I also feel like it’s better that a straight-to-DVD. I put it somewhere between something like Paranormal Activity and Paranormal Entity. Not quite as good as one and nowhere near as bad as the other. I can’t give it over four hearts because that’s where the pantheon films go but I’ll give it damn close ’cause it’s a damn good litle Horror movie. See it in the theater if you can for full effect!