On a fall evening in 1983, a young man videotaping his niece’s fifth birthday party keeps the camera running as an alien invasion unfolds.
Horror is still a huge genre in cinema today and I really hope that it stays that way forever because it is my favorite genre. I deeply wish that award shows would recognize horror as an actual genre because all these years later I am still angry about the huge Toni Collette snub for Hereditary as well as Florence Pugh in Midsommar.
Those two are both psychological horror-thrillers that genuinely mess with your mind and make you feel like you’re going insane with the characters. But one sub-genre of horror that we don’t get much of anymore is found footage. This is kind of weird because years ago, found-footage horror movies were literally everywhere. Paranormal Activity used to dominate the box office and there were numerous sequels made because they made a ton of money no matter what.
That’s why it is genuinely surprising to me that we don’t get a lot of found footage flicks anymore and I kind of miss them, to be honest. The craze all started in 1999 after the release of the excellently chilling The Blair Witch Project, a movie that a lot of viewers thought was real when it was released. It just had this uneasy sense of reality to it. Audiences watched it and thought to themselves “Surely this can’t be real… right?”.
Of course, it turned out to be a complete work of fiction, but there was a long period of time where the answer wasn’t so certain. It kicked off a whole obsession with found footage horror everywhere and after the release of Blair Witch, it seemed like every up-and-coming filmmaker was making that type of movie in order to obtain similar amounts of success, but most filmmakers didn’t get that success.
But there is one found footage movie that was released ten years before Blair Witch, that doesn’t get talked about whatsoever which is a little interesting. That movie is Dean Alioto’s The McPherson Tape or UFO Abduction. I can genuinely appreciate the film for being of the first found-footage horror films ever made, and I can appreciate the low-budget eerie feeling to it. But other than that, I think I know why The McPherson Tape is not widely known – it’s not good.
Running at a brisk and light sixty-six minutes, the film isn’t one of those movies where you can’t finish it because it is so bad, but it’s quite close. The Blair Witch Project was definitely longer but one hour and six minutes is still a good amount of time to show some creepy aliens on camera and build up palpable tension leading up to the big scares.
But sadly, The McPherson Tape doesn’t have that big moment that will be talked about long after the credits roll. Blair Witch had plenty of these sprinkled throughout. Here, the creepiest scene happens about twenty minutes in, and even that scene wasn’t even remotely creepy. It was admittedly well-filmed, but nothing about it screamed scary or unsettling.
And really, the same thing can be said about the film as a whole. It is absolutely a respectable effort. It admittedly has an impressive atmosphere and one that could’ve been genuinely terrifying had the film fully committed to its premise and went all-out later on. But it never does. There’s just a lot of arguing on-screen and not so much anything creepy.
Overall Grade: D
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Directed by: Dean Alioto
Distributed by: Axiom Films
Release Date: 1989
Running Time: 66 minutes