The Levenger Tapes focuses on the plight of three-college age students, a myriad of bad decisions, and the police detectives trying to track them down. Throughout the film, scenes switch between the tapes–from a camera that seems to be the connection to the missing students–and a third party set of detectives searching for evidence. If that seems vague, it is meant to be, since The Levenger Tapes is better at leaving things to interpretation than allowing anything to come to fruition.
Like most found footage films that tell a story from the limited screen of a ‘live camera’, The Levenger Tapes is plagued with archetypal characters who are insanely unlikeable. The three main college students consist of; the stereotypical pretty dumb blonde, the horny nerd who is trying to have sex with her, and her bitchy, brunette friend.
Unfortunately, these characters don’t really develop over the course of the film. Even in the midst of the most terrifying moments of the movie, they stick to their one-dimensional roles. Also, the police in The Levenger Tapes follow similar rules, fulfilling the archetypes of the seasoned veteran who answers to politicians, the detective dedicating his time to a tragic case, and the rookie who is learning to balance family and job.
However, despite the annoying characters, The Levenger Tapes utilizes a simple story with creepy elements that instantly pique the interest of the viewer. For example, in the very beginning of the tapes, the college kids commit a hit and run, with a full shot of a little girl taking over the screen. One of the detectives instantly jumps up and brings out a conveniently placed case file and reveals that the little girl is the subject of a missing person’s case that he is investigating.
She has reportedly been taken by the hunter, a man who the cop describes as a violent criminal, giving the suspect sort of a serial killer introduction. Additionally, the hunter is named Toole, which might be a wink and a nod to Otis Toole, the serial killer who kidnapped and killed Adam Walsh in 1981. The hunter is assumed to be in the truck with the missing girl and his later appearance in an abandoned field near where the college kids are staying is strange and eerie.
Another nifty element to The Levenger Tapes happens after the nerdy guy decides to apologize to the hunter and the little girl for the hit and run. He is joined by the other girls and, while making the trek to the abandoned field, drops the bomb that the land they are walking on at two o’clock in the morning is an ancient Native American burial ground that the locals actively avoid. So, the stage seems to be set for an interesting interaction between a potential serial killer and his victims, three clueless, drunk college kids, and a burial ground that could hold untold evils.
Even though these elements blended together sound pretty cool, and like they have the potential to terrify and impress, The Levenger Tapes falls incredibly short of what could have been an original concept. The first half of the film is set up to build to a sinister conclusion, but after forty-five minutes have passed, confusion abounds.
There are so many aspects fighting for attention that nothing actually happens. Scenes consistently outstay their welcome, building tension that either fades or has no resolution with a good or even a bad scare. What is even more frustrating is that The Levenger Tapes sets itself up for a creepy thrill ride where the viewer would be enraptured by all the pieces of the puzzle falling into place, if they ever did fall into place. But instead it ends on an almost ridiculous note with all kinds of gobbledygook jammed into the last fifteen minutes. The viewer shouldn’t have to ponder the story during the credits, but should be awestruck by fantastic storytelling.
Despite these setbacks, there are actually some legitimately creepy moments that provide the impression that if given another chance, director Mark Edwin Robinson could possibly pull off a better film. The tension that is initially created in The Levenger Tapes is well crafted and the dialogue is smooth between the characters, feeling natural and not forced. And despite the perplexity that is the last part of The Levenger Tapes, it is fascinating and thought provoking–it just really needed a stronger, more focused narrative.
Overall, The Levenger Tapes is not a nail biting film with consistent replay potential, but its production value, interesting story, and attention to detail show great promise.
WICKED RATING: 4/10
Director(s): Mark Edwin Robinson
Writer(s): Mark Edwin Robinson
Stars: Johanna Braddy, Lili Mirojnick, Morgan Krantz
Release: July 5, 2016 (DVD and VOD)
Studio/ Production Co: Castlight Pictures
Length: 92 Minutes
Sub-Genre: Horror, Thriller