Lost Tapes

LT4

Around the world are tales of strange creatures that we think haunt only the deepest, darkest parts of our nightmares, but sometimes our nightmares become reality, and when that reality is caught on tape, Animal Planet is there to show us.

Yes, you read that right, this is an Animal Planet show. I know, I know, I had the same reaction you’re most likely having right about now, something along the lines of “What in the ever loving hell?” I used to really like that channel back in the days when it was about guys like the late Steve Irwin and Jeff Corwin giving us entertaining and informative shows about nature and the myriad creatures that live there. Then it fell in with bad crowd like TLC, where channel execs apparently forgot that the L was supposed to stand for learning, and The History Channel where execs came under the impression that all history was created only at the behest of alien invaders from the past, aliens or ghosts, one of the two anyhow. That’s when Animal Planet became a cesspool of reality shows involving blowhards trying to show either how badass or backwoods they were, ghost animals that talked to ghosts that were talking to psychics, and a group of idiots tromping through the forests who found Bigfoot in every trampled plant and every sound in the night, apparently forgetting that the forest is full of these other things called fucking animals. Listen, Bigfeet are real, I’ve mentioned this before, I’ve hung out with them a time or two since Bigfeet and zombies get along rather well, all things considered. They aren’t the brightest stars in the sky, but they aren’t dumb enough to make themselves known to a bunch of jackasses with a camera and maybe a handful of brain cells between the lot of them. Reality shows have never been about reality, but come on, I have an easier time believing that woman still want to bang Brett Michaels than I do in four morons who couldn’t find their way out of a studio apartment finding any evidence of an elusive cryptid (or an unknown, possibly mythological animal).

Lost Tapes is a mockumentary type of show that has a different subject with the same format for each episode. Basically it’s recovered recordings of mythological, cryptozoological, or supernatural creatures terrorizing a person or persons who find themselves at the mercy of whatever creature happens to be the subject of that particular week’s episode. The footage could be from home or business security cameras, personal cameras an individual may have on them, or even news recordings, so you could be watching a family dealing with a vampire in their basement, explorers investigating giant centipedes on a deserted island that was one used for research, a couple of thrill seekers dodging Mongolian Death Worms, a forest ranger worried about the strange creature that’s stalking her, or even a lone woman on a boat who’s terrified of the creature threatening to capsize her vessel. The episodes are typically presented in a format where in someone is going on a trip, investigating something, vacationing, or moving into a new area when things go downhill and whatever that episode’s subject happens to be begins to threaten whoever is behind the camera or in charge of operations. In between the footage, presented as being completely real, are interviews with real life specialists who deal with said creature or have an insight about the possible biology or psychology behind it. As a for instance, in an episode dealing with zombies author Max Brooks, biological anthropologist Jessica Lynch Alfaro, and psychologist Kevin Volkan, are brought in for interviews about zombies. Every episode follows this structure, changing out only the style of filming, the subject creature, and the people involved. I figured I’d give a short synopsis of an episode to give you an idea, and I figured since it’s the Year of the Undead, might as well go with a zombie episode.

LT9{Though the basement dwelling vampire with a thing for watching kids would have been my next choice}

A group filming the festivities that are Mardi Gras in New Orleans catch a woman attempting to coax a man to go back where he came from only to have the shambling man attack and murder her in an animalistic fashion. Because of the circumstances surrounding her death, a private security company called the Enigma Corporation are called in to clean out a condemned building where her attacker may be hiding, protected by another group of squatters. It’s at this point that the footage switches to personal cams carried by the three member team sent in to apprehend the murderer. Upon entering the house they quickly find things amiss, discovering a voodoo shrine and scattered human remains. It’s not long after this that they are attacked by not only the man they were looking for, but others in the house as well. The viewer will already know that these people are zombies, but the Enigma team isn’t sure what they are, only that they are aggressive and don’t seem to go down very easily, if at all. In the course of events during the nighttime raid, one member of the team is bitten, passes into unconsciousness, is partially devoured, and reanimates to attack the others, while the other two are trapped in an upstairs room, eventually managing to escape outside only to be beset by their now undead team member. This is where the footage ends. In an epilogue it is revealed that the house was demolished, though the whereabouts of those who were inside are unknown, and that two members of the Enigma team survived to attend a quiet funeral for their fallen comrade.

LT5{Restraints are definitely not going to be enough for these undead bastards}

You can expect most episodes to have the same ambiguous ending, though this shouldn’t come as any shock considering most things that fall into the found footage genre are about the same. Where Lost Tapes manages to differentiate itself is in the way those endings are handled. Instead of a simple text scroll that offers little to nothing in the way of closure, as is the case with nearly every found footage movie out there, a narrator will give details as to investigations afterwards, the ultimate fate of those involved in the tape (though this does at times simply translate to their bodies never being found), and any other info relevant to what the viewer has just witnessed. It added a greater sense of realism, as if these were actual cases that had been handled and investigated by some documentary show looking to air tapes that presented nigh unbelievable evidence of the existence of things that were thought to be locked into the realm of imagination, or at the very least the delusions of idiotic asshats tromping through the forest to scare Bigfoot into the open (yeah, I really fucking dislike those clowns).

LT15{Not much ambiguity for this one though, you need only to take a peek at the long, serpentine form next to the boat}

One thing that really surprised me in these shows was how genuinely creepy many of them are to watch. Don’t expect to find any kind of terror, or even something that’s going to keep you up at night, it is Animal Planet after all, but there is a very eerie feeling to them as you wait for the appearance of whatever creature is set to be the star of a particular episode. Not all of them mind you, some are downright silly and others are just entertaining, but a good chunk are as creepy as they come. The realistic nature of the show helps in pushing the creep factor. The viewer is warned that these are only inspired by real tales from around the world, but the tapes are so well put together that a person sitting at home can lose themselves in the viewing of what seems to be actual lost tapes of encounters with the unknown. Though I would recommend watching them on something that allows you to avoid any advertisements since these pull the viewer right out of the experience, and you already have the actors to do enough of that.

LT16{I was going to make a comment about the poor acting here, but fuck the picture creeps me out}

LT17{This is why I don’t go into the ocean}

That’s the biggest problem with Lost Tapes, the actors are almost always just awful at the thing they were hired to do, namely act. I don’t expect a show with a smaller budget and a constantly shifting cast to get the very best of actors, I’m not going to expect to see Sean Penn running from Bigfoot while Benicio Del Toro battles the kraken, but I do expect actors that at the very least can play their parts. I really wish they had spent a bit more time in this department because there are several times throughout the show where I’d start becoming creeped out only for a horrendous actor to kill the feeling by acting like an animated Christmas decoration.

LT10{Monster actors are the exception as they usually do a great job}

LT11

{Not a bad job representing this drawing either}

Despite the actors extremely poor performances, some so bad I found myself wanting to watch a bunch of drunken jackholes mistake raccoons for elusive North American primates (last insult towards those fuckers, I promise), the creativity in coming up with different ideas was impressive and ran the gamut of hidden, possibly real, possibly not creatures. Some of my absolute favorites were:

  • The Monster of Monterey in which a woman attempting to travel around the world via boat is harassed by an unknown, but extremely large sea creature.
  • Death Worm where two friends participating in an ATV race through the Mongolian dessert are attacked by the legendary Mongolian Death Worm.
  • Devil Monkey finds a group of ATF agents searching for an illegal moonshine operation, only to come across creatures that resemble a much more terrifying version of the Wicked Witch of the West’s flying monkeys.
  • Cave Demons in which U.S. Marines encounter strange and aggressive creatures in the caves of Afghanistan.
  • Death Raptor where a paranormal investigations team looks into a malevolent spirit said to haunt a local church.
  • Wendigo: American Cannibal takes the old legend of the spirit that turns one into a vicious cannibal and creates a truly terrifying tale.

I apologize for the long list of favorites, but it was really hard to narrow that list down, I’ve had gone on to add episodes including giant centipedes, the kraken, and a basement dwelling vampire to that list, but it had already gone on long enough. The list of ones I didn’t care for and won’t be watching again on the other hand is much easier:

  • Q: The Serpent God brings back the Enigma Corporation from the zombie episode to investigate a series of ritualistic murders that turn out to be the work of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl. The episode is a long, drawn out event with the agent in charge of the investigation meandering around while we wonder if this is for a god or an unknown snake creature.
  • Megaconda features, well a megaconda, a giant snake that has been captured which a bumbling group of ecodorks attempt to free from captivity. It had more comedic value than any fear.
  • Alien promises to deliver a terrifying extraterrestrial brought back by an astronaut, but instead delivers a cheap, plastic bug that would have looked terrible in a 50’s B science fiction movie.
  • Chupacabra could have been a great episode had it dealt more with the South American version, but what we get is the North American version which is essentially a dog with mange.

You might take this as a huge criticism on my part, naming the episodes I felt were boring and needed improvement, but it’s actually a huge compliment in that I had a difficult time naming my favorites, while the ones I didn’t find impressive were much easier to pin down. Still, pay attention to my use of the phrase “I felt.” While I didn’t care for these episodes, others may enjoy them. There is such a great deal of variation that there is something for everyone, and what one may despise, another may love.

LT13{I would have loved to see this version}

LT12{Not this one}

Lost Tapes takes a very simple premise and runs with it. The actors might not be great, or even good for that matter, but the effects are rather impressive for a low budget show (there are some great looking creatures), the creativity is apparent with the selection of creature choice, and the realistic feeling is handled very well.

 

The Undead Review

 

Release Type: Television Release

Channel: Animal Planet

Released By: Go Go Lucky Productions and Animal Planet

On Air: 2008 – 2010

Seasons: 3

Television Rating: Not Rated

Rotten Heads: Three Heads Out of Five

About The Undead Review

When I was alive I was an asshole and after I died remained pretty much the same, if not a little worse. You’d think becoming a member of the walking dead would mellow a person out, no more worrying about awkward small talk with people, no more having to be politically correct, and the entire world is your upright, bipedal buffet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun as hell to be a zombie, just somewhat irritating at times, especially those times you have to watch a lame movie or read a lame book. Thankfully, when I am forced to watch these films or read those books, I’ve got places like The Undead Review to bitch and moan to my heart’s content. {When he’s not devouring the living or sinking his teeth into a good film The Undead Review (Andy Taylor) spends his time writing his own stories or hunting down the paranormal. Oh, and did we mention his blind dog once saved the world?)
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