Isabelle Fuhrman, Tarek Bishara, Annarosa Mudd
Directed by Deborah Kampmeier
The opening credits of Deborah Kampmeier’s “Tape” suggest that you’re about to watch a horror film hatched from the James Wan universe. When in reality the feminist thriller exists in a much darker place ruled by men like Harvey Weinstein, the casting-couch underworld. The film is based on a real incident that happened to actress Annarosa Mudd who plays Rosa, a victim of sleaze ball producer Lux (Tarek Bishara) who’s about to pounce on his next target, naive Hollywood hopeful Pearl (Isabelle Fuhrman). After a wobbly beginning that leaves the viewer perplexed, the hard-hitting drama comes back with a powerful final act.
The images of a bloody female during the opening credits don’t belong to a supernatural figure from the horror genre, instead they derive from Shakespeare. “Tape” begins with illustrations of Lavinia from “Titus Andronicus” who was raped and mutilated (her tongue and hands cut off). The brutal act by Demetrius and Chiron was meant to silence her by not being able to name or point to her attackers.
Rosa (Annarosa Mudd) draws inspiration from Lavinia in the opening scene where she pierces her tongue, shaves her head, and cuts her wrists. It’s grueling to watch and leads the viewer to believe that she’s attempting suicide but that’s not the case. The wounds aren’t life-threatening.
I went into the film without knowing anything about it so the entire first half left me confused as I tried to figure out what was happening. In this case knowing a bit of background information before viewing helps.
Before leaving her New York, City apartment, Rosa gets wired up with a hidden camera and microphone in her black ensemble that screams ‘The Matrix.” She’s dressed like Trinity and wearing dark sunglasses from The Sharper Image catalog.
She heads to an audition filled with aspiring actresses, secretly recording their every move as they wait to be called in to audition for producer Lux (Tarek Bishara), a physical fit middle-aged guy whose second language is English. His first is bulls—t. It’s aggravating to hear the amount of rubbish that comes out of this guy’s mouth. Props to Bishara who is eerily convincing in the role.
We watch as Lux sets his sights on the young and naive Pearl (Isabelle Fuhrman) who’s willing to do anything to break into show business. He sets her up for a private audition in an isolated warehouse studio furnished with of course a bed, and a couple of hidden cameras placed there by Rosa to catch this predator in the act.
The message behind the film is powerful but the first act is hard to swallow. Rosa in her black “Matrix” outfit stands out like a sore thumb in a room filled with young girls who shop at Old Navy. Then when she’s keeping Pearl under surveillance via sneaking around behind corners and across the street once again, she stands out big time.
The performances by the cast are very good and for Mudd, whose real-life experience inspired the film, it must have been difficult to relive the ordeal again. But by doing so she’s giving a voice to the countless others who have been subjected to similar ordeals. So, it’s easy to look past any weak points to concentrate on the film’s message and there’s that redeemable third act.
Bishara is spot-on as the smooth-talking master of sleaze and Fuhrman who starred in Kampmeier’s 2008 film “Hounddog” and also played that creepy little Esther in “Orphan” (and Clove in “The Hunger Games”) delivers a very good performance, its strongpoint is restraint.
"Tape" comes through in flying colors with a powerful finale that I don’t want to giveaway. It’s tense, nail-biting, and blurs the line between vengeance and justice. A powerful film in the #MeToo era from filmmaker Deborah Kampmeier.
“Tape” premieres tonight at 6PM via a Virtual Theatrical Release with panel conversations from writer/director Deborah Kampmeier following the screening. For more information and to purchase a pass to view the film tonight during the virtual premiere go to https://www.tapevirtualpremiere.com/
The film streams April 10 on Amazon, iTunes, GooglePlay & Microsoft