The Glenarma Tapes Poster

The Glenarma Tapes (2022) Review

There’s been a lot of good found footage films coming my way recently, such as Tahoe Joe 2 and Woods Witch. Now there’s The Glenarma Tapes, an Irish film that begins by telling us that seven people went missing in the woods around Glenarma one night in 2020. One was later found near death and in a coma.

Two years later, the police found the footage we’re about to see.

The footage starts innocently enough, as we watch Gordy (Warren McCook, Hope Street) go through his day as a student at Mid Ulster College of Art. His friend Jimmy (Rían Early, Getting Up, Pure Mental) is making a day in the life type film for his class project. He’s certainly an interesting subject, going from making insightful comments about Romeo and Juliet to getting a lecture from the police for slapping a mouthy student in the same morning.

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But when they overhear their drama teacher Mallon (Colette Lennon Dougal, Dalgliesh, Line of Duty), making arrangements to meet a married colleague Holmes (Declan Rodgers, Shooting for Socrates, St. Mungo’s) in the Glenarma Forest they decide to make a very different kind of film.

Along with fellow students, Eleanor (Sophie Hill) and Clare (Emily Lamey, Behind the Veil, A Fistful of Karma) and some Go Pros “borrowed” from the school, they head out to film a bit of blackmail material.

Director Tony Devlin and co-writer Paul Kennedy (Made in Belfast, Noob) keep the first half hour fairly low-key, concentrating more on Gord and Jimmy’s amusing personalities than anything else. It’s not till they ask directions from a shopkeeper (Charlie Bonner, The Devil’s Doorway, The Tudors) and get told about Harry Halfahead, that anything remotely creepy is even mentioned.

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Thankfully, they keep the wandering around lost in the woods to a minimum, and the quartet soon stumble across what looks like some sort of ritualistic human hunt. And it’s not long before they find themselves hunted as well.

The scenes of the foursome being stalked through the dark woods are genuinely suspenseful. The fact that somebody makes it out alive gives The Glenarma Tapes an edge that most found footage films don’t have. Being set deep in the forest at night, much of the footage is very dark, but, unlike films that didn’t invest in lighting, sound is used to offset the lack of visibility and giving the scenes a more realistic feel.

Adding to that realistic feel are the four leads, who are quite convincing in their roles. One trope the film doesn’t use is casting actors who look old enough to be the parents of students as students. Combined with solid performances and a script that gives them believable reactions to their situation, they give the film a strong core to build from.

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The Glenarma Tapes may start off like a typical Blair Witch knock off, but Devlin and Kennedy quickly start subverting the genre. For once, the protagonists aren’t going looking for Sasquatch or some demonic entity that they should know enough to avoid. Yes, they’re looking for trouble, but certainly not the kind they find.

The film’s ending, with the revelation of who the survivor was and where it goes from there, is something I haven’t seen before. Found footage purists will probably have issues with it, but I thought it worked well and gives the film a feel reminiscent of the political and Satanic conspiracy films of the 70s. It’s also a nice touch the way cameras and what they film continue to play a part in the story up until the end.

Mixing elements of found footage and crime films, The Glenarma Tapes is an enjoyably suspenseful watch. Perhaps more importantly, it’s something a bit different in a genre that tends to suffer from more of the same syndrome.

Dark Sky Films will release The Glenarma Tapes to VOD and Digital Platforms on April 2nd.

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