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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Sx_Tape review (London Film Festival) (world premiere)

Sx_Tape red light Caitlyn Folley

There’s no reason or logic in this found-footage yawner, and nothing rises to the level of even adolescent notions of sexy-scary.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Ever been forced to watch the video vomit of someone who’s been fooling around with his camcorder in what he thinks is a clever and original way? But it’s really just disjointed garbage? With some oops-he-“forgot”-it-was-there “naughty” sexytime he taped with his girlfriend? Yup, that’s what watching Sx_Tape feels like. Artist Jill (Caitlyn Folley: Happy Endings) is scouting out an abandoned Los Angeles hospital with her boyfriend, Adam (Ian Duncan: The Mists of Avalon) — though he’s mostly behind the camera of this found-footage yawner, so we barely see him — as a potential venue for a showing of her work. (This is after some random noogie in the back of her car and even more random pissing off strangers in a cafe by taping them, apparently to pad out the runtime of this anemic film.) The hospital is strictly no-trespassing, and is meant to be a horrorshow, what with having been a place where unwed mothers could get secret abortions and, it seems, lobotomies, but apart from some “spooky” creaks and bangs, precisely the sort you’d get in an abandoned structure like this, and one wandering ghost whom neither Jill nor Adam even seem to notice, it’s not in the least bit interesting… and neither are Jill or Adam, or the friends who show up later that they drag around some more (despite Jill insisting that she doesn’t feel well and wants to go home; no, behaving inconsistently does not make her more interesting). There’s no reason or logic, either within the context of the story or without, in a meta sense, for the little that transpires next, and none of it even rises to the level of an adolescent notion of sexy-scary. I was convinced that this was the work of a newbie filmmaker, with its lack of compelling characters, anything resembling a story, or even halfhearted scares — not that that would have been an excuse for this tediousness, merely an explanation. I was astonished to discover, however, that this is the product of veteran filmmaker Bernard Rose, perhaps best known for Beethoven biopic Immortal Beloved and horror classic Candyman. (The script, such as it is, is by first-timer Eric Reese.) How does that happen?

viewed during the 57th BFI London Film Festival

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Sx_Tape (2013)
US/Can release: May 16 2014
UK/Ire release: direct to dvd

MPAA: not rated

viewed in 2D
viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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