The McPherson Tape (1989)

If there’s one subgenre of horror that seems to divide horror geeks the most, it’s found footage. Yet, even within the annals of found footage criticism, “The McPherson Tape” seems to be a particularly polarizing entry. Shot far before 1999’s “The Blair Witch Project” (but not before 1980’s “Cannibal Holocaust,” which the marketing for “McPherson” ignores), it’s got some of the same problems that plague some of the weaker found footage entries (like “The Amityville Tapes” or “The Gracefield Incident”), namely that the setup is almost more important than the characters. Here, the characters are pretty unlikable so there’s not much for us to do while we wait for things to happen, which heightens the disconnect between the movie’s technique and its narrative devices. Additionally, much of the dialogue and acting are forced and a little clunky, and the special effects are, well, ‘negligible’ (to be euphemistical) – which is particularly evident when we finally meet the alien visitors, which are poorly represented and completely take you out of the experience. However, there’s no denying that in the moments where it works, it *really* works: It’s got a number of downright terrifying moments (most of them around the halfway point), and any amateur UFOlogist will recognize the storyline’s roots in the infamous 1955 Kelly-Hopkinsville encounter, which is a nice touch for those of us in the know. So, given that it’s only 63 minutes long (and just so, so divisive and obscure), it’s worth a watch for sure, just don’t expect much and you’ll likely enjoy it for what it is.

Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)

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