THE BLACK TAPE *** USA / India 2015 Dir: Ramone Menon. 92 mins

Feature debut for writer-director Ramone Menon offers a compelling variation on the usual “found-footage” theme: the masked, silent killer who has committed the home-invasion atrocities we are witnessing has shot, cut and scored the footage himself, even creepily popping up in a presenter capacity and including his own D.I.Y. credits. The approach offers a rare clarity in this sub-genre as to how the “found-footage” in question ended up in the structured format of a finished feature film.
The episodic nature of how the killer has pieced together the footage – complete with intertitles – resembles the familial slaughter tapes of SINISTER, while the relentless voyeurism of observing a stalked family (parents and three kids) from the point of view of the home-invader echoes more successfully sustained recent films like THE POUGHKEEPSIE TAPES and 388 ARLETTA AVENUE. The technique means that the film’s more questionable choices (notably the distracting music score) could be blamed on the killer’s personal selection, though the undeniable intensity of the first half is weakened by the central absurdity of the stalker clumsily sneaking around the house for several days without anyone really noticing. At a certain point, it awkwardly shifts into a kidnap-drama scenario in which the acting weaknesses are more exposed, clumsily snaking its way toward a perfunctory twist ending. Nonetheless, the killer is genuinely sinister and there are effectively unsettling moments amidst the longeurs.

Review by Steven west

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