Thursday, March 26, 2020

Sexual abuse tracked, as Deborah Kampmeier's TAPE gets a "virtual theatrical" release

Now that most theaters are closed, thanks to the current Corona virus, we'll be seeing more and more new movies -- particularly those of the small independent variety -- opening in what is termed a virtual theatrical release: available to digitally stream but only at what would be normal theatrical screening times, sometimes followed by online live panel discussions about the film and the topics it addresses via Crowdcast.

That is the case of the torn-from-the-headlines, sexual-exploitation-and-revenge film under consideration here: TAPE, from writer/director Deborah Kampmeier, who back in 2007 gave us an interesting movie entitled Hound Dog.

Tape could hardly be more au courant, dealing as it does with a very smart, sexy male sexual predator and the women, past and present, he has abused. And Ms Kampermeier, shown at right, sets things up stylishly and creepily, as one of our two heroines, Rosa -- played by the unusual looking and acting Annarosa Mudd, below -- wires herself for sound and then utterly defaces herself. This is not simply shocking but pretty horrific to view. It's an attention-grabber that certainly works.

From there we move to a group of young actresses going through the "audition process" for the movie's immediately recognizable villain, a handsome, suave and especially well-spoken fellow, Lux, who seems to specialize in making women feel empowered -- even as he utterly debases them.

This smart, savvy and very sexy predator is played by an actor now named Tarek Bishara (shown below, and if the face is familiar but the name not so much, you might better remember him under his former moniker of Thom Bishops), who does a first-rate job of convincing these poor young women to do exactly what he wants, although the purpose of this -- other than an enjoyable fuck -- is not nearly so readily apparent.

Even as Rosa goes about her plan to tape Lux (via video and audio) as he despoils his latest lady, a very sad and unfortunately pretty stupid young woman -- you'll begin by excusing this due to maybe youth and innocence, but as the movie wears on, her behaviors grows sillier and ever more incredible -- named Pearl (Orphan's Isabelle Fuhrman, below), the film's credibility begins to deteriorate. By the finale, a showdown at gunpoint in a New York restaurant during which Kampmeier tosses in everything from porno streaming to Bill Cosby, Tape has become, well, laughable.

This is too bad because, god knows, the movie's heart is in the right place, and the performances are as solid as the increasingly weak script allows them to be (Mr. Bishara is particularly convincing in his lovely little "You're-in-charge" speeches), and the tale is said to be based on fact.

Fact, however, needs more reality than Kampmeier seems able to muster, as the entire plot to wire things up goes off too easily (despite one glitch that then revolves itself almost magically), as does the whole unmasking scene, including bringing in a newscaster to present all the evidence. References to Titus Andronicus abound, as does a look at everything from female objectification to eating disorders. In the end, though, and despite strong performances, it seems at most oddly surface. And not very believable.

From Full Moon Films and running 98 minutes, Tape hits the virtual theatrical realm today. Click here for all the information regarding how to access the film and/or the Q&A's following the screenings -- which will run for the next two weeks. The film will then be available beginning April 10th on VOD platforms Amazon, iTunes, GooglePlay and Microsoft.

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