May 16, 2014 (DVD)
Caitlyn Folley as Jill
Julie Marcus as Colette McLeod
Chris Coy as Bobby
sxtape sounds like a very promising film. Unfortunately it doesn’t come close to living up to its titular burden, and it does little more than mimic countless other found footage flicks.
Found footage films are becoming too intolerable at this point. I don’t have scientific proof to back this statement up, but I stand by my words: One out of every 20 found footage flicks is decent. One out of every 50 found footage flicks is amazing. Those aren’t the most uplifting stats, even if they may be off – a little. The fact of the matter is the found footage feature has become the lazy man’s film. Found footage is for the guy who doesn’t understand story mechanics and cannot create believably impacting visuals without loads of dim lighting and choppy post effects. What these filmmakers do now is hide everything. They’re incapable of delivering a truly jarring visual, so they mask it in shadow, glitched screens and skipping video feeds. And it’s gotten to a point that teeters on unbearable.
If you’d like to test your balance, watch Bernard Rose’s sxtape. This one offers virtually nothing that we haven’t seen previously. Sure there’s a bit more nudity in this one than most handi-cam flicks, but, nudity isn’t new. And neither is this lame hospital possession clunker. In fact, there’s not even really an attempt to make it markedly different or unique. If you’ve seen a Grave Encounters film, or Entity, or The Devil Inside or any of the other generic flicks that “borrow” the same damn idea (seriously, the majority are so dreadful it’s a challenge just remembering their titles), then you’ve seen sxtape. The allure of sexuality flies right out the window when we realize that Rose isn’t even going to attempt to push censorship boundaries (seriously, how do you omit some very graphic stuff in a flick titled sxtape?), and when the minimalized but entirely uninspired visual effects work starts to pop up… well, that’s every bit as disappointing.
While pics like this can sometimes be saved by spirited onscreen performances and quirky personalities, there is not one single likable character in the film, and no one in the lineup has an odd or unorthodox enough personality to take a liking to. These are as cookie cutter makeups as imaginable. We get a slutty girl who is destined for tragedy, a disgustingly submissive “filmmaker” (for a dude essentially shooting a porno, this guy has absolutely no balls, whatsoever… I wanted to track this clown down and punch him in the face!), a brainless bully and a couple other utter nonentities. It’s truly embarrassing. Eric Reese has written a number of characters that we can do nothing with, other than absolutely loathe. If this was a Friday the 13th flick, we’d be chomping at the bit and the popcorn, cheering for Jason Voorhees to mutilate these annoying bastards in some creative way, and we’d be hootin’ and hollerin’ with no shame or hesitation. But this isn’t a Friday the 13th flick, and Jason Voorhees cannot save us from this disastrous 82 minutes. Wait… 82 minutes? Why in the world did it feel like this one hovered around the 120 minute mark? We’ll consider that a rhetorical question which quite obviously says a lot about the production.
If you’re looking for a hint of creativity in your found footage, look elsewhere. I’ve recently addressed the heavily flawed but energetic Mr. Jones as a FF piece that sticks out in the crowd simply based on its willingness to look down different paths. That’s one to watch over this heap, despite a schizophrenic conclusion. sxtape offers one final interesting shot (it lasts about a second and a half) but in the end the film and it’s makers fall into the same pitfalls so many other found footage directors stumble upon, and it openly refuses to look down any path other than the path most explored. sxtape is an insipid film that never aspires to be anything else. It looks like a handful of guys got together and said hey, let’s just copy all the other crap we’ve seen and call it our own – if we shoot it found footage style, we can even get away with spending minimal! It doesn’t work out too well.