sxtape-003Having made a name for himself with the memorable horror flick Candyman back in 1992, British director Bernard Rose has since tried his hand in various other genres – with the more recent unofficial trilogy of adapted Leo Tolstoy novels, culminating in the wonderfully pensive drama Boxing Day last year, proving a distinct aptitude to excel in other areas. However he now makes a long-awaited move back to horror with his latest picture Sx_Tape – though regrettably, it’s a rather dire return.

We begin with mortified artist Jill (Caitlyn Folley) being interviewed by the police, as she is informed she is the only survivor of a dark and disturbing supernatural occurrence, following her daring break-in at a local, abandoned hospital with her boyfriend Adam (Ian Duncan). Though she seems to be somewhat oblivious to what exactly happened on this fateful day, fortunately Adam documented the entire day on his handheld camera – from the more intimate moments at their apartment, all the way to the bitter end – and it’s that very footage we then proceed to witness.

Offering very little new to the genre, Sx_Tape is far too conventional and archetypical, featuring an all too common premise of a group of daredevil opportunists infiltrating an abandoned building. We’ve see it all before, not to mention the unnecessary use of found footage, implemented in such an excruciatingly contrived way, featuring so many moments where you question why on earth anybody would be clutching a camera and bothering to film when their life is at risk. It’s a shame it doesn’t work – because the set-up does hold some promise, as it leaves this mysterious story wide open, and creates an intense and foreboding atmosphere, as we know that by the time this ends only Jill will be left alive, as we sit there just waiting for it to happen. Actually, we sit there desperately hoping it will happen pretty sharpish.

It is a interesting technique to not show us our co-lead for the most part of this title, as Adam remains a mere voice behind the imagery, despite being such an integral part to the storyline. It’s probably for the best though, because none of the characters are particularly likeable or endearing, which doesn’t help much in regards to rooting for their survival. Our protagonist Jill lacks much depth, as a single-layered, sex-obsessed character who seems somewhat unable to have any form of intelligent discussion with anybody.

With few scares – Rose has frustratingly avoided subverting the genre at all, abiding to its conventionalities instead of trying something innovative. However this isn’t illusory nor immoderate enough to incite a potential cult following, falling somewhere between the two. Now we just have to cross our fingers and hope that Rose decides to abandon horror altogether and decide to revisit Tolstoy for a fourth time.