Lost Tapes: Season 1 (2008)


Lost Tapes is a Faux-Documentary show that depicts traumatic scenarios where people are attacked and/or killed by mysterious, dangerous, deadly, savage, and ferocious paranormal cryptids.

REVIEW: It's no secret that we here at the B-Movie Shelf love us the Found Footage genre. Sure, there are some big stinkers to come across, but when done right, that style of filmmaking can be effective as hell plus cheap to produce, so everyone can win. Being a 14-episode TV season, it's safe to assume that Lost Tapes Season 1 includes both ends of the spectrum, and pretty much every step in between as well.

But before I really get into the review, I just want to first mention that this review is a pretty big milestone here on the blog by officially being the B-Movie Shelf's 100th review! And while there are no doubt better titles I probably could have done as the 100th Review, I'm really glad all the same that it's a title that comes with it's own little milestone - the very first TV Show review for us here on the B-Movie Shelf! Having been put out by Animal Planet of all channels, you can assume correctly that the episode-to-episode budget on this show is pretty miniscule, which taking that into account as well as the subject matter, makes for the perfect TV show to review on a B-Movie review site!

However, such a tiny budget also means hardly even a blink-and-you'll-miss-it glance (if even that much) of the creature-of-note each episode, but luckily most times they make up for that by at least having good creepy atmosphere and fast-paced action, along with some growls, hisses, roars, and whatever other auditory noises they can throw in to add tension. As with pretty much any TV show, some episodes pull it off far better then others, so your view in the show could be drastically different, depending on which episodes you catch on TV. Unless of course, like me, you come across the full 2-disc first season on DVD in the 6.99 bin at Wal-Mart, in which case you can just pile through all 14 of the episodes in close to one or two sittings, seeing as how it's such a light show that's easy to digest, and every episode is totally stand-alone from one another.

Actually, let's take a little quick look into each of those episodes. The format of each one includes 'found' footage from a person or group of people that 'went missing' or had unexplained phenomenon happen to them, each with a different crytozoological or paranormal creature as the focus of the episode. Mixed in to break the episodes up a bit are Talking Head interviews with real people that are experts in the field (such as Loren Coleman), actual article clippings, and real news footage, as well as pop-up text facts based around either the creature itself or the terrain of the location and survival facts.


Episode 1: Chupacabra - This episode deals with a Mexican family trying to illegally cross the border into the U.S. (being filmed by the young daughter on her new camera that she got for her birthday, as well as dash-cams from police cruisers) and in the middle of the desert they run afoul a killer blood-thirsty creature of legend.

This episode was decent and a good way to introduce audiences to the show, with some pretty good tension and some of the better acting this season has to offer. However most of the episode is subtitled since all the characters are Mexican (except for the American Border Patrol officers), so be prepared to do some reading with this one. My biggest issue here is that the show uses the annoying recent trend of a Chupacabra being a vicious coyote with mange. That has never been what the Chupacabra has looked like and it's only the idiotic media in recent years spreading that false description around so now that's all people think of when they hear the word Chupacabra. I was hoping this episode would showcase the original horrific alien-like description of the monster, but sadly it drops the ball and goes with the inaccurate coyote-looking cop-out. Episode Rating: 6/10

Episode 2: Skinwalker Ranch – This episode deals with the infamous Skinwalker Ranch, although it really only touches on one aspect of it, which is an actual skinwalking creature itself (aka, Werewolf-type creature). In real life there's so much more strange phenomenon associated with the place such as UFO sightings, ghost activity, and Bigfoot encounters, but I suppose if the episode wanted to focus on everything it would have to be movie-length, so it picks just the one topic to go with.

Here, we have a son returning home to his family's farm after two years away at college to repair a strained relationship with his father for not staying and working on the ranch, when after hearing strange sounds, he and his father head out into the ranch lands to check on the livestock, finding many mutilated. During the course of the evening and night they get stalked and hunted by a vicious coyote that seems to have supernatural powers such as disappearing into thin air and mimicking the cry of loved ones, in addition to also being bothered by a strange Native woman that seems to have unnatural ties to this coyote, heavily hinting that she herself changes back and forth into it.

Despite only covering one tiny aspect of the actual Skinwalker Ranch, this is one of my more favorite episodes of the season as, even though it manages to take place almost entirely during the day (Only about 2 minutes at the end take place after nightfall), it still manages to send goosebumps up my spine at parts and, to me anyway, the stuff happening during the day scenes was far creepier then anything that happened during the night scene, which is a welcomed change from the usual with Found Footage stuff. It's also one of the rare episodes that the ending may not turn out exactly how you were expecting it to. Episode Rating: 9/10

Episode 3: Monster of Monterey – In the third go-around, we're treated to our first water-based episode. A thrill-seeking woman embarks on a sailing trip around the world, by herself, to break various records. She keeps in contact with civilization via a spotty-at-best satellite internet connection and a webcam, and she records her travels via video cameras set up around the exterior of her sail boat. Along the way she picks up an SOS of a nearby vessel and goes to check it out, finding nobody on-board and blood splattered across the deck. Heading back out into the empty ocean on her own again, the undocumented large mysterious sea creature that presumably laid waste to that other ship has begun stalking her, getting more and more brave with each attack.

The concept of underwater monsters has always been one that grabs my attention, as growing up I often found myself just staring off into the deep blue surfaces of the ocean, lakes, and such, wondering what kind of unknown creatures could be swimming around down there below the surface, just out of eye-sight. With that in mind, this episode was a pretty big disappointment. Other than a few knocks against the boat making it bang around a bit and one very quick 'blink and you'll miss it' shadow zoom by under the boat, there's no sign of the creature at all – no glimpse whatsoever. Also, with her being the only real character in this episode (as attractive as she is), with only an occasional short appearance of her boyfriend via laggy webcam, in addition to the previously-mentioned lack of creature, this one just had me bored for most of its very short 19-minute runtime. The scariest thing in this episode is at the very end when she gets knocked off her boat and the waves of the ocean are pushing her back further from it while it continues to sail onwards, further and further away from her, and she just kind of slowly drowns as the end credits play over-top of the scene. It was terribly depressing and a really anxiety-filled ending as you picture that happening to you...but it has nothing at all to do with the creature attacking her boat (and by attacking I mean the boat being banged around twice and that's about it). Episode Rating: 4/10


Episode 4: Devil Dragon – This episode centers around a wilderness survival expert filming his own TV show, Survivorman-style, out in the thick of the jungle by himself, for days on end, showing how to survive and what to do in various sticky situations in the wild. One night he runs into a hungry Komodo Dragon-like creature which takes a good chunk out of him and then let's him go. Of course, anyone who knows anything about Komodos know they take a bite to infect you with their paralyzing fever-giving saliva and then continue to stalk you throughout the next several hours until you become delirious and defenseless and that's when they move in for the kill. The thing is...Komodo Dragons aren’t supposed to reside in this Jungle, so what is this thing really?

Anybody who has ever watched an episode of Survivorman or Man vs Wild or any of those types of shows always find themselves wondering at some point “Man, what if he came across some unknown creature while out there?” Well, this episode caters to those exact people, and overall the results are pretty realistic, playing out exactly like how an episode of Survivorman or Man vs Wild would have had the Host been attacked and the episode was actually allowed to air. My two issues with this though is, to start, even though the creature turned out to be an extinct dinosaur-like animal called the Megalania...that creature looks identical to a Komodo Dragon, so why pick that one? Pretty much every Jungle is filled with all sorts of their own mythical creature legends, including some good dinosaur ones, so why did they go with this mundane-looking ancient reptile that looks identical to one of our already regular animals? It was fine and all, don't get me wrong, but I would have preferred something that actually looked a little bit more unique. My other beef is, once again, we never even get so much as a glimpse of the animal. I understand these episodes are super low budget and we never really get good looks at anything, but quick and short glimpses like in the first two episodes is perfectly fine and all I expect, but these latest two episodes don't even give us that much – they literally give us nothing whatsoever. Other than those quibbles though, this was one of the more entertaining episodes yet, despite also being centered around just one character like the previous episode was. This one is how you pull it off successfully, while that one was just a bore.
Episode Rating: 8/10

Episode 5: Thunderbird – Thunderbird stories have always interested me, dealing with mysterious gigantic bids that roam the skies and prey on the large animals below. This one follows a group of skateboarding kids, not quite teenaged yet but soon would be in a couple years. Looking for a great new skateboarding spot, they sneak into a restricted construction area just outside of town where they then proceed to get lost until nightfall comes, and then start getting terrorized by a gigantic monster bird.

This episode is centered around some very annoying bratty kids, which sadly means no likable characters to be found here, and I'm not gonna lie - I kind of enjoyed 'seeing' these annoying kids getting terrorized by the bird. I have the word 'seeing' in quotations though, because once again we don't actually really see much at all. This is three episodes in a row now that we don't even get a glimpse of the monster. The first time it was annoying, the second time was a bit more frustrating, but three episodes in a row is just inexcusable. Sure we do get squeals, squawks, and the sound of large wings flapping, but that's it. At least Monster of Monterey had a likeable character and dealt with a water-based monster which is something I liked, and Devil Dragon was just all around entertaining, but this episode had none of those things going for it. It was only 19 minutes long and honestly, I had trouble staying awake during this one, except for the shots where the annoying bratty kids started getting attacked, then it was at least somewhat watchable. Episode Rating: 2/10

Episode 6: Cave Demons – Set in Afghanistan, this episode follows a squad of U.S. Soldiers with helmet cams on as they make their way through a confusing maze of unexplored underground caverns, following Intel that enemy Taliban forces were held up somewhere inside and using devices to block the U.S.' communications. What they find instead though is more akin to mutant humanoid bat monsters that should have at least fans of The Descent really liking this episode.

As a fan of horror movies that deal with army soldiers in dark and tightly confined places, as well as being a fan of The Descent, it's safe to say this episode is one of my favorites, combining Aliens with The Descent and wrapping it up in a nice little 19-minute package. Only negative thing I can say about it, is that this episode has the absolute worst acting out of the entire season, being downright brutal and hard to watch in some scenes. Episode Rating: 9/10


Episode 7: Bigfoot – This episode deals with a lone Park Ranger that spends days at a time, if not weeks, staying in a little cabin in the middle of the forest, doing her rounds to keep her eyes on the land and it's creatures, and investigate potential illegal poaching. She ends up coming across a poacher that then chases after her, harasses her, and tries to murder her before she can arrest him for his crimes. Oh yeah, and Bigfoot shows up at the very end to attack the poacher and rescue the Park Ranger, like some kind of woodland critter superhero.

As you can probably tell, I didn't like this episode. At all. Everyone has their theories on the Sasquatch, aka Bigfoot, and that's cool and all, but the one I dislike the most is the very one this episode decided to go with – that the Sasquatch is a supernatural and intelligent protector of the nature realm or some such thing like that. Bigfoot is one of my personal favorite cryptids and I was really anticipating a nice creepy episode with this, and while there was one or two minor semi-creepy moments of hearing the Bigfoot's call in the distance, that's all you get as the episode focused almost entirely on the Park Ranger and Poacher's little cat and mouse game with each other, and then when Bigfoot finally does show up at the very end (which once again we never even get so much as a quick glimpse, it all happens off-screen), it's the exact opposite of creepy and just plain lame. If there's one episode you must skip on this set for whatever reason, make sure it's this one.
Episode Rating: 1/10

Episode 8: Oklahoma Octopus – A group of teens celebrating graduation from High School go swimming in a nearby large lake that has a lone wharf in the middle of it, and they get carrying on like teens tend to do, just goofing off and having fun in and around the water. That is, until an unknown underwater tentacled creature shows up with an appetite and traps everyone on that floating wharf, away from shore and with no way to get back there without getting back in the water.

As I mentioned during my thoughts on Monster of Monterey, I love the concept of underwater monsters, never quite knowing what's lurking down just below the otherwise calm surface...which is why I hate the fact that I actually disliked the first water-based episode earlier on. Luckily this makes up for it as this episode turned out to be another favorite of mine, even despite the fact that the only glimpse of the creature we ever see is a couple quick shots of it's tentacles flapping around in the water or shooting out of the water and dragging someone down (which is still more than what we got in the last several episodes combined). It also had a bit more meat on its bones than you generally find in these episodes, by way of there being a subplot dealing with the main camera-operating teen secretly being in love with his best friend's girlfriend, and lots of 'going away to college and going their separate ways' kind of drama, actually going that extra mile to make us care about these characters. Episode Rating: 10/10

Episode 9: Death Raptor – Two amateur Paranormal Investigators trying to get their Ghost Hunting TV show off the ground hear about supernatural, and possibly demonic, activity in and around the grounds of this really old, really large Gothic church, and so they get their filming equipment and head out to investigate, thinking it'll make a great episode of their soon-to-be TV show. What finds them however, is not anything ghostly or demonic, but that doesn't make it any less dangerous.

When I saw that this was going to be another giant bird episode, I was instantly thinking I wasn't going to like it, simply because the previous giant bird episode, Thunderbird, was one of the worst episodes of the season. Thankfully, unlike that one, this one has actual shots of the creature, good characters, and really creepy atmosphere. Plus, it's not just a giant bird, but an intelligent humanoid owl monster – the infamous Owlman from U.K. lore (think the Mothman, but much more malevolent). I also really like the idea of a Paranormal Team investigating a supposed haunting hot spot and instead finding something completely different but equally as terrifying. The final scenes in the congregation room of the Gothic church are among the best this season has to offer when it comes to creepy stuff. Episode Rating: 10/10


Episode 10: Swamp Creature – A couple Wildlife Researchers and their guide get lost in the thick dense swamplands of Louisiana and it soon becomes clear that not only are they lost, but they're also being hunted...hunted by the infamous Honey Island Swamp Monster, a savagely territorial humanoid Sasquatch or Skunk Ape-like creature with webbed reptile feet and accompanied by one hell of an awful smell.

This is the Bigfoot-esque episode I had wanted the previous Bigfoot episode to be like (though it's more like Florida's Skunk Ape then a traditional Sasquatch, but the two are close enough). No superhero woodland critters here, no sir! A group of people lost in the wilderness, catching glimpses of a smelly hairy creature stalking them, they hear some howls in the air, and then when they set up camp for the night, the beast aggressively attacks, giving us one of my favorite episode climax scenes yet seeing as how whenever I went camping as a child I would always imagine some dark savage creature ripping open the side of the tent and attacking us. This is the kind of episode that this show was made for, and it's too bad that it took until it's second Bigfoot-esque episode to give us something as atmospheric and creepy as this. Fans of the Season 1 DVD cover art, take note, as this is the episode that goes with that cover art.
Episode Rating: 10/10

Episode 11: Megaconda – A pair of animal activists break into a downtown warehouse that they think is being used to store and transport illegal live animal trading, and while they were correct in their assumptions, one of the animals – a gigantic abnormally large, and hungry, anaconda escapes its confines and picks up the scent of the animal activists.

Gigantic monstrous snakes aren’t just from Jennifer Lopez horror movies, there are tons of evidence out there that such beasts exist, especially with Anacondas since they just keep growing exponentially until they die. In terms of pop-up facts for these episodes I was actually quite surprised with just how much info was delivered with this one. This is a topic I myself researched for a school project way back in high school and a lot of what I had put into that paper had actually been touched upon in this episode as well, so it's a great 'Giant Snake Lore 101' episode. As for an entertaining episode? Well let's just say this season set has better episodes, but also (thanks to the Thunderbird and first Bigfoot episodes) also has worse episodes too. It's just that with all these pop-up facts and real footage and photos dealing with jungle encounters, I was expecting a jungle-based episode, not the entire thing to take place in a random warehouse in the middle of the city - It just kind of ruined the believability a bit for me, especially when you add in the fact that there are supposed to be dozens of captured exotic animals in this place, yet not one single animal is making any kind of noise, not even when a dog gets in and starts barking. It also doesn't really make much sense as to why the activists would be filming all this, since the footage would work against them if caught, not to mention that part way through they have to switch tapes in the camera because the first one gets taken by a security guard and that second tape eventually gets lost and then destroyed at the very end...so how were we able to see that second tape's footage exactly? This is an episode that totally falls apart once you start thinking about it for even a minute. However, it was still pretty entertaining/creepy just how much one of the actors in this episode looked identical to a young George Clooney, and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't pretty fun seeing people getting chased by a giant anaconda, feeling almost like a 19-minute Anaconda sequel, even if most everything in it didn't make sense or add up at all. Episode Rating: 4/10

Episode 12: Hellhound – A group of goth teens, hanging out in a graveyard, are filming the initiation of a new member into their group, but the prank they planned to pull during the initiation goes horribly wrong when a ghostly black Hellhound with glowing red eyes shows up to take everyone down...to Hell.

This episode was one of the surprise hits for me. When it started off with a group of goth teens, I really wasn't expecting much. To my surprise though, this episode had some of the better acting out of the entire season, plus it was the episode where we got to see the creature-of-note most clearly and most often – we see it multiple times and almost every time was a nice long, solid look at it, where-as most episodes at most all we get is a very quick glimpse or outline for a second or two and that's it for the whole episode. Plus, who doesn't get creeped out by being stalked throughout a graveyard at night by a mysterious and vicious black dog? For an episode I wasn't expecting much from, this one quickly became one of my favorites, with some pretty genuinely frightening moments throughout and a really nice unexpected twist ending. Episode Rating: 10/10


Episode 13: Mothman – A man's old school home videos from during the rash of sightings of the mysterious Mothman leading up to the infamous Point Pleasant bridge collapse, as well as the following police interrogation of said man make up the bulk of this episode.

Honestly, there's not really much to say on the Mothman creature. Chances are, if you're interested in this show you probably already are the type of person to know most of what there is to know when it comes to The Mothman of Point Pleasant. As for the episode itself, I was actually expecting it to be a bit of a cop-out, with a new Mothman sighting and very little, if anything, to do with the original events. Suffice to say I was pleasantly surprised when the episode was actually from the POV of footage from the original Mothman sightings and Point Pleasant events of 1967, complete with an old grainy black and white filter over most of the video to make it appear old, plus tons of actual news footage of the real tragic event. As a Mothman fan, this episode was quite accurate to the myths and I appreciate the level of effort they put in to make the video seem oldschool as well. Equal parts family drama, police procedural, disaster flick, and monster movie, this episode is full of meat on it's bones and has a little bit of something for everyone.

Unfortunately a lot of it comes a bit undone by the dreadful acting, espespecially during the FBI Investigation scenes. Not quite as bad as what it was like in Cave Demons, but a pretty close second. Also, the majority of this episode is actually the previously-mentioned stock news footage and photos of the real event, and not quite so much new originally-shot footage so it comes across almost more like a mini-documentary then it does a fictional faux-found footage episode.
Episode Rating: 6/10

Episode 14: Death Worm – Two thrill-seeking young adult friends participate in a Sports Enthusiast reality show race where at one point they find themselves ATVing through the Gobi Desert, and soon get turned around and lost in one of the most dangerous and inhospitable locations of the world. As if that wasn't enough, once darkness falls they also run afoul the famous creatures of myth, the Mongolian Death Worms - mythical large aggressive worms that can spit acid and shoot electrical charges great distances.

While I probably would have picked one of the slightly better episodes to be the Season 1 finale, this one wasn't too bad itself. The acting was pretty strong, there was some good ATV footage for those who like sports, there was real danger to be had even without the mythical creatures-of-note by way of being lost in the Gobi Desert, and then when the Death Worms themselves do show up, it just adds another layer of danger to everything. Unfortunately it's also one of those episodes were you pretty much never get even so much as one quick look at the creatures and pretty much all of their attacking happens either just off-screen or just under the surface of the sand (although that final shot of a half dozen 'bumps' in the sand moving quickly toward the main character from all directions was pretty effective). All in all a pretty decent episode, but not the one I would have chosen to use as the Season Finale episode. Episode Rating: 7/10


So as you can tell, on a whole I really enjoyed the first season of this low budget Animal Planet show. Sure, there were some stinkers in there but there were far more Good and Great episodes to be found. My one big nitpick overall though is that the camera footage, regardless of source, always looked the same quality. Whether it be from a professional HD movie-making camera or some little kid's phone camera, the quality and HD smoothness was always the same and that can kind of take you out of the realistic mood they were going for here. The only exception to this was the Mothman episode where they purposely went out of their way to make the footage look old and crappy, and I very much appreciated that and kind of wish they had done little tricks like that more often to add some variety to the camera qualities.

If you can believe it, there are actually people out there that think this show is real. I fail to see how anyone this day in age can believe that found-footage movies and shows are real. Not only are most of the effects here (what 5-second quick looks we get at them) quite low budget and terrible, but the acting is totally unbelievable as well for most of the episodes, plus if these kinds of things were real, they would be classified as snuff films and wouldn't be allowed to be shown anyway. With that said, there is some truth to these episodes, by way of the real Talking Head interviews, newspaper clippings, and news footage, but they never actually deal with the plot of the episodes themselves, but more-so as just in general the creature-of-note or some other lightly-related aspect of the episode. The actual events themselves of the episodes, I assure you, are 100% fiction. Hell, the episodes even begin and end on the words 'This episode is based on the possibility that these creatures may exist' which is a round-about fancy way of saying 'These events are fiction.'

For such a cheap price (I got this 2-disc set for less than 7 bucks), if you're a fan of Found Footage B-Movies than you really can't go wrong with this DVD set of Lost Tapes Season 1. At 14 episodes, you're bound find at least something you like in the bunch, and at only 19 minutes each, even the less-than-good ones pass by quickly and don't seem quite so bad in the greater scheme of the season as a whole. Hell, you even get some Special Features which I wasn't expecting - a nice large handful of scenes from most of the episodes that had been cut for time, some more interesting then others but all worth a look if you enjoy the show.

7/10 rooms in the Psych Ward




Comments

  1. Replies
    1. Damn it. Why do Spambots have to start imitating Bollywood movies that I'm looking forward to? Is no topic safe!? It's a mad house, I tell you, a mad house!!

      Delete
  2. Did you know that you can shorten your urls with AdFly and make money from every click on your short urls.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Arachnoquake (2012)

Early Screener Review: Jailbait/17 & Life: Jailbait (2014)

Sleeping Beauty (2014)

Early Screener Review: King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (2017)

Maximum Ride (2016)

The 10 Best B-Movies of 2013

Age of Dinosaurs (2013)

Rituals/The Creeper (1977)

The Curse of the Komodo (2004)

The Giant Spider (2013)