Just as quickly as Afflicted redefined the “found footage” horror subgenre, SX_Tape came along and proved there are still PLENTY of opportunities for filmmakers to exploit first-person horror normalities. One day there’s a bright hope, the next there’s a disgusting reminder that for every original idea, someone else will rehash the past few years of duds for their own ill-conceived shitfest. I want to remain positive, happily accepting an advancement in “found footage” horror – but it takes a certain type of awful to make me hate a movie in which our lead, possessed character jumps up and down screaming “LET ME SUCK YOUR DICK!” To think some inexperienced filmmaker could just waltz into stardom with such a – wait, this was directed by Bernard Rose of Candyman fame? Oh boy, where’s Tony Todd when you need him?
When has a sex tape ever gone wrong, am I right?! Well, when discussing horror movies, the answer is a resounding “always” – with SX_Tape being no different. While evaluating an abandoned hospital for art gallery potential, lovers Adam (Ian Duncan) and Jill (Caitlyn Folley) decide to continue their sultry exploits from before on a dusty, dirty, grimy hospital bed with restraints attached. Who can deny that level of kink! Surprisingly enough, the eerie abandoned hospital where heinous abortions were performed (or whatever silly reason the place has to be haunted) turns out to in fact be haunted, and our amateur pornographers find themselves fighting for their lives! Gasp! As if the random noises being heard the past ten minutes weren’t enough of a giveaway?
SX_Tape isn’t written off immediately because so many other films have attempted the SAME lame story, but instead because scribe Eric Reese doesn’t deviate from formulaic plotting one measly inch. Granted, there are only so many ways to guide dimwitted characters into doomed scenarios, but it’s what comes after the prodding that defines a film – and SX_Tape refuses to define itself. Like, at all. Rigid, cardboard characters find their way off some other horror film’s cutting room floor, walking about a generic, darkly-lit maze of dilapidated hospital rooms – somewhat (extremely) reminiscent of Grave Encounters (and a million films before). Initial landscape shots of the abandoned hospital don’t “WOW” us with Victorian detailing or glamorous set design, instead starting a distracting game of “Where Have I Seen This Before?” Bernard Rose and Eric Reese went to Toys ‘R Us and purchased the “How To Make A Found Footage Horror Movie” starter kit – passing building blocks off as a finished product.
I’m at a loss on what to cover next, because SX_Tape offers audiences a plethora of reasons to shut this stanky mess off – but how about the blatant misuse of sexuality? At first Jill refuses to bone on camera, like Katie Featherston and so many cockteases before (SARCASM), but then proceeds to hump Adam mercilessly everywhere possible on camera – including a public parking garage. Whatever, OK, I’ll stomach Jill’s random change of pornographic heart as a means to get her strapped in the hospital restraints, but then Adam leaves Jill for an elongated period of time, as a joke, AFTER THEY BOTH HEAR NOISES OMINOUSLY SUGGESTING ANOTHER PRESENCE IN THE ABANDONED BUILDING. Her solitude cues a malevolent force walking in the room, something happens as the camera is distorted, and Adam comes wandering in apologizing for the shitty joke. The problem? ADAM WAS THE ONE SUGGESTING SOMEONE ELSE COULD POSSIBLY BE THERE. Then let’s throw Jill’s security footage into the mix, and watch my mind explode Scanner‘s style from dumbfounded confusion. Don’t even attempt a plausible explanation, because at this point I really don’t even care.
No character actions make a lick of sense, and the sexual nature of Rose’s film takes a backseat to paranormal forces that are never explained – all we know is Jill isn’t herself, and some feeble attempts are tied backwards to a ghostly figure momentarily appearing to lunge menacingly at Adam’s camera. Scary? Sure, when screens are distorted or dark and things jump at you, chances are you’ll see me clutching for a blanket. Appreciated? Not in a movie like SX_Tape where horror becomes childish bullshit completely ignorant of tension, an atmosphere that separates juvenile genre rubbish from engrossing masterpieces. Rose rests easy knowing he got a rise out of viewers like a thickheaded childhood bully, thinking the momentary distractions can distract from Reese’s non-existent story. For shame, Mr. Rose – for shame.
Well, OK, I can’t blame everything on our creative team, because performances surely didn’t hide any Oscar winners in this heaping dung pile. Caitlyn Folley is the only actor barely escaping with a shred of credibility, and that’s only because she plays a convincing victim. The rest are a throwaway handful of Z-grade genre monkeys, no worse than alpha bro Bobby. Appearing as a “friend” of Jill’s, Bobby spends his screen time blatantly hitting on Jill directly in front of Adam, belittling Adam with every douchy insult known to frat-men, and waving a gun at anyone he chooses, because, you know, normal people just own guns and carry them around in backpacks wherever they go. What! You don’t know when you’re entering a gang war, do you!? Right – the minute Bobby came on screen, SX_Tape lost ANY ounce of credibility Adam couldn’t muster (a limp-dicked protagonist in his own right), plummeting Rose’s stock to a level that only Mark Jones’ Scorned resides at. How any sensible filmmaker could parade around Bobby and feel any sense of pride is beyond me, as the tanktop wearing jock-itch might as well have been named Aggressive White Bro #1.
The biggest crime SX_Tape commits though is not respecting the horror genre, the “found footage” subgenre, or any type of horror audience in the least. This is the Honey Boo Boo’s Mom of celebrity sex tapes, yet while morbid curiosity may have made 1 Night In China watchable, this flaccid abomination could have used a whole handful of Viagra for some much needed performance enhancement. Part lame-duck softcore porno, part nonsensical paranormal horror, SX_Tape is a special kind of suckage that embodies everything purists hate about “found footage” horror – and finds a way to make said “no-nos” even less meaningful.
When I say that Rose has created the worst “found footage” movie about amateur pornography of 2014, please note that I’ve already seen more than one. Yup, I’m as flabbergasted as you are, because I didn’t think pornographic-themed horror could get much worse than Lucky Bastard, but Bernard Rose’s painstaking effort proved me wrong. Kudos sir – the crusty crown is all yours.
Do you like your horrid "found footage" ripoffs riddled with amateur pornography? If so, SX_Tape is just the movie you've been looking for!