The Demonic Tapes is a micro-budget film from London producers Richard and Daniel Mansfield. Richard writes and directs, while husband Daniel takes some acting duties. We watched the film for free on Amazon Prime.
Sometimes a film surprises you. Sometimes it surprises you so much that you try to make all your friends watch it, and even become a weird sort of evangelist for it. That’s the situation I’m in with The Demonic Tapes.
It had languished on my Amazon watchlist for a while. I was dimly aware that the auteurs made it for a couple of quid, so thought it was a zero budget found-footage (it isn’t) that might be good for a laugh. When I finally watched it, I was taken aback by how much I loved it.
The idea is pretty novel. Much of the story is told through sound (which is a bold gamble for a movie!) when the hero finds a dictaphone in his basement. Some tapes in the box provide a complete audio record of a ghost-hunt, conducted at the property by a medium. The tapes play throughout the film, and our hero either listens or gets on with his life.
It’s an unusual concept, but it works for two reasons. Firstly, if you can get past the zero-budget vibe—and I encourage you to try—the visuals are clever and sometimes beautiful. The interplay between sight and sound is a major point of the film. As history repeats itself, there are moments when the tapes almost seem like an audio commentary. For instance: in one scene, we aren’t sure if spooky tapping sounds are part of the recording or knocking at the window. It’s an effective device and lets the tension mount wonderfully.
Secondly, the audio is done very well. The medium has a great voice, and the lo-fi recordings sound spooky and believable. Together, the sights and sounds create an atmosphere that I found intoxicating throughout.
In terms of fear factor, there are some genuinely tense and chilling moments, and one very effective jump-scare. Also worth a mention: there’s a beautiful montage with some wonderful music. Despite the lo-fi quality, it’s an elegant piece of cinema, rather than a found-footage or mockumentary-style film.
A lot of love and craft went into this, and I consider it a masterclass in doing more with less. In short: one of my favourite films for a very long time, and I couldn’t be more surprised.