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  • Rev Horror

The Glenarma Tapes

Dir. Tony Devlin (2022)

A group of students go missing in the Glenarma Forest in Northern Ireland, and their recordings are found two years later by police.

Found footage/mockumentary horror has gotten such a bad rap as of late. While I can certainly understand the perspective that it was done to death, can't that be said about anything? God knows there are more than enough vampire movies out there, yet nobody loses their shit when a new one comes out, and they've been doing that shit since the early 1900's. I'm a big fan of the genre, and while I certainly acknowledge there are quite a few misses in the category, they're almost universally entertaining and can often be quite scary just because of the first-person perspective the genre forces on its audience. Today's film is a movie from 2022 that is just now receiving a wider distribution, and it combines high-res first-person recordings with a believable story to deliver a better-than-average Irish found footage gem.

Friends Gordy (Warren McCook) and Jimmy (Ryan Early) decide to follow two of their art school teachers into the woods to try to catch them having sex at the suggestion of their female friends (and potential love interests) Eleanor (Sophie Hill) and Clare (Emily Lamey). When they stumble upon a cult ritual in the forest, the quartet must fight for their lives against a force they neither expected nor understand. The group finds themselves being hunted in the pitch-black forest, and the cult's mysterious intentions come into full focus as the group tries desperately to survive.

The Glenarma Tapes is interesting because it shows that found footage does not have to be what it has been in the past. The advancing technology that is available to the general public means that found footage films don't have to be some grainy camcorder recordings or shaky GoPro footage either. The video quality in the film looks like any other movie, but it's styled as either faux documentary or first-person video taken by someone in their real life. The footage taken is explained as being part of a school project at an art school, eliminating a lot of the contrivance that's present in movies that are found footage out of budgetary concerns or lack of filmmaking experience. It's very well made, with excellent cinematography, and yet it still works as found footage. In that regard, it's truly brilliant, because it's so easy to forget that making a found footage doesn't have to look like shit anymore.

The story starts off a bit slower, which is understandable as the film needs to establish a good reason for its characters to be traipsing through the woods in the middle of the night. Once the action begins, however, it rarely lets up, as our main cast finds itself using every tool at their disposal to survive. There's very little gore, which is a bit of a letdown but actually serves to make the action on-screen more believable than it would've been otherwise. The camerawork is exceptional, and as it fits together as a story told through the found footage of various cameras, the story is easy to follow even as things start to go to hell. All of this combines together to create an incredibly watchable found footage film, and even though it lacks some of the scares of the better films in the found footage subset of horror, it's not half bad and more well done than most recent entries into the genre.

The star of the show for me was actually the sound design. The effects are excellent, with every crunch and thud coming through perfectly in the audio. It's a piece of the filmmaking process that is rarely given much thought in found footage films, and it serves to make the film much more effective than it might otherwise have been. It's a small piece, but it's so noticeable when its missing. The audio quality in the film is outstanding, and it really helps to keep the audience engaged and make them feel part of the action. While the film certainly has its shortcomings, most noticeably the lack of exposition (which is hard to do in general) and it's at-times slow plot development, the production quality is much, much higher than I expected. A nice change and makes the movie worth a watch, even if you're sick to death of found footage films.

Who this movie is for: Found footage fans, Irish horror lovers, Candid Camera participants

Bottom line: A decent indie found footage horror flick from the Emerald Isle, The Glenarma Tapes is well done and just scary enough to be worthwhile. The camerawork is largely excellent, which is hardly a given in the genre, and it's creepy enough to be worthwhile even for casual fans. The short runtime allows for a quick watch, and this is definitely a film that's worth checking out. It's on Digital VOD today. Give it a shot if you're a fan of indie found footage.


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