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The Levenger Tapes (2013)
DVD Released: 7/5/2016
All Ratings out of
Extras: No Extras
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/21/2016
As a writer, I try to keep things new and fresh. I feel that I'm a creative person and I not only want that to be reflected in my writing, but I want you, the reader, to feel that they are reading which is not recycled. Therefore, I hate repeating myself and writing something which I've written in the past, but here I go again asking when the found-footage trend is going to finally subside. While it has trailed off in recent years, it is still a thing and we are still being asked to sit through movies which are essentially glorified home movies. (See my recent review ofThe Mirror for more on this idea.) The newly released The Levenger Tapes is the latest example of why this trend needs to finally die, or at least get a complete makeover.
College students Amanda (Johanna Brady), Kim (Lili Mirojnick), and Chase (Morgan Krantz) are en route to Chase's family's mountain house for a Spring Break getaway. They stop at a liquor store, where Chase decides to steal a bottle of rum. During the getaway, their car is involved in a fender-bender with a truck. They flee the scene, and go to the house. Once there, they drink and talk and then spot a campfire in the distance. Taking a closer look, they see that it's the man from the truck that they hit. Amanda decides that she wants to apologize for the accident, but Chase, attempting to impress her, insists that he take the blame. Soon, all three are walking through the woods. They become lost and it becomes obvious that something is stalking them through the brush.
Allow me to extrapolate on that synopsis of this 90-minute movie. The trio drive to the house, talk while visiting various rooms and then go outside. From that point on, we are treated to scene-after-scene of the group walking through the darkness saying things like "What was that?" or "Did you hear that?". Meanwhile, we aren't hearing these things, nor are we seeing them. The Levenger Tapes falls squarely into the realm of found-footage movies where we assume that something is going to happen, we hope that something is going to happen...but nothing happens. Writer/Director Mark Edwin Robinson joins the sad ranks of "filmmakers" who woefully confuse the lack of action with a slow build-up or suspense. If I wanted to watch people walk through the woods, I would say yes when my wife asks if I want to go hiking on the local greenway.
The overwhelming deficiency of activity is further compounded by the vague story. There are a lot of unanswered questions concerning how the three main characters know one another and what their plans are, aside from the fact that Chase has a crush on Amanda. You don't have to be a film historian to see that The Levenger Tapes borrows liberally from The Blair Witch Project with the whole "found footage lost in the woods" concept. But, the movie also lifts ideas from 1980's Cannibal Holocaust, as we also get to see characters watching the found-footage. Police detectives Stackman (Chris Mulkey), Rooney (John Rosenfeld), and Finch (Camden Singer) gather around a TV to watch the footage, which has been transferred to videotape. Wait. What? Video footage from an SD card has been transferred to videotape? Which they then watch using an ancient top-loading player? Why didn't they just transfer the footage to cave paintings? This makes no sense whatsoever! Anyway, the idea is then introduced that the footage of the college kids is somehow linked to a kidnapping which happened years before...or something.
The movie asks us to sit through multiple scenes in which nothing happens, as we wait for the story to appear. However, 98% of this movie contains no story at all. When the "plot" finally appears at the end, it is not only unsatisfying, it makes no sense in the least. This is yet another Blair Witch rip-off which thinks that it can dump a story into our laps in the last scene. But, it takes actually talent and subtlety to do this and The Levenger Tapes does not possess this. If you can't tell, I'm really tired of these movies. The only interesting thing here is that astute viewers will note that this film is Copyright 2011, and it was supposedly released somewhere in 2013. The take-away here is that this movie has sat on the shelf for five years. So maybe they have stopped making movies like this and The Levenger Tapes represents the last vestiges of the sub-genre. But, somehow I doubt it.
The Levenger Tapes sets police technology back 30 years on DVD courtesy of Lionsgate. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing no noticeable grain and no defects from the source materials. As most of the movie takes place at night and in the dark, and it's being "shot" on a home-video quality camera, the picture is dark at times. However, I'm sure that was allowed as the thinking was that it would heighten suspense. The colors look fine and the level of detail is acceptable. The Disc carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. We are treated to some mild stereo and surround sound effects, but, as noted above, most of the times when the characters say, "Did you hear that?", I didn't hear anything. The subwoofer effects are subtle and the dialogue is never muffled.
The Levenger Tapes DVD contains no extra features.
Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long