DVD Review: The Lost Coast Tapes
Review by Kit Rathenar
I’m one of those fortunate people who not only doesn’t get motion sickness from watching found footage movies, but also hasn’t actually seen that many of them. I’ve generally avoided the genre after rather failing to get what the fuss was about when I saw The Blair Witch Project, many years ago now. But on the upside, this does mean that I could come to The Lost Coast Tapes with, comparatively speaking, a relatively unjaded palate.
Which is good, as I really enjoyed watching it. The premise is a fairly simple one: television host Sean, who has found his career on the skids after falling for a hoax on one of his shows, has decided to make his comeback with a series about – logically enough – crackpot hoaxers. He heads off with his team into California’s “Lost Coast”, planning to discredit an old backwoods cryptozoologist who claims to be in possession of a dead Bigfoot. This is all the setup we get and really all the setup we need, as the film then follows a tried-and-trusted route: the cast are trapped in the back of beyond, something nasty is out there in the woods, the protagonists get picked off one by one, and all the scenes that could be described as “climactic” consist of people screaming and falling over in the dark while pointing the camera in entirely the wrong direction. So far so good.
The thing that makes The Lost Coast Tapes both a better-than-average film and an oddly frustrating one, however, is the sheer number of ideas it seems to have but never manages to fully explore. I suspect this may have been due in large part to budget constraints, because there is enough potential plot in this movie that if someone had been able to afford the FX they could have ditched the found-footage format and made one hell of a good conventional horror movie instead (or at least, made a found-footage movie that could actually show us what was happening instead of having to keep all its big reveals at the edge of the frame.) There are questions raised about the motivations and actual nature of Bigfoot/Sasquatch which strike a genuine chord of fascination in the viewer, only to be abandoned unexplored. The concept that’s here used as a final-scene punchline had enough material in it that personally I’d have rather seen it dropped into the movie a third of the way in and then run with, which would have made a very different but potentially far more striking film. The ideas are assuredly there – the filmmakers just seem to have lacked the confidence to really go big or go home on them.
But what they did manage to capture still has a lot going for it. Boasting a humanly flawed but broadly likeable cast of characters, performances ranging from decent to engaging, and enough tension and atmosphere to keep the viewer at least halfway to the edge of their seat, The Lost Coast Tapes as it stands is a respectable piece of indie filmmaking with some neat original touches. As a female viewer, I liked the fact that while it’s traditional in a horror movie for the female in the cast to have an unexplained sensitivity to whatever is going on, The Lost Coast Tapes takes this trope in a fresh direction; presenting sole female character Robyn as a practising shaman/witch who understands and accepts her own abilities, and is actively trying to use them to help the group rather than simply being beset with vague “awareness”. (The magical aspect of her character is written with a believable lightness of touch that I loved, too – her reaction to Sean’s refusal to let her do her traditional blessing before they start shooting is both plausible and priceless.) The “did you see that?” establishing glimpses of Bigfoots and more that appear in the background of various shots are very neatly slipped in – as demonstrated by the fact that I watched this film with a friend, and both of us were calling out “sightings” that the other one was missing. And while the small cast means that the body count is necessarily low, some of the deaths that do occur are executed imaginatively enough to give the viewer a genuine jolt in the pit of the stomach. Any killing that manages to shock me once and then shock me even worse a minute later will always impress me.
Above all, I get the impression that the people who made The Lost Coast Tapes were genuinely invested in the movie. The actors and crew are clearly working hard, the ideas are there, and I really think it was only the resource limitations that brought them up short. Worth seeing, and definitely worth watching director Corey Grant to see what he comes up with next time out.
The Lost Coast Tapes comes to Region 2 DVD on 3rd September 2012, from G2 Pictures.