Well, this is a bit of an interesting twist on what I usually review, but it’s my website so suck it. Anyways, it’s day 21 of my #31DaysOfHorror, and today goes to a Podcast that I found a review for in my local university newspaper. As I write this I am listening to Episode 5, and don’t actually know how this will end, but I feel compelled to write a review of how it’s going so far. So, let’s stop with the preamble, and get to The Black Tapes.
In the first episode of The Black Tapes Podcast, our host, Alex Reagan, enters the strange world of paranormal investigation and encounters the enigmatic Dr. Richard Strand: a ghost hunter who doesn’t believe in ghosts. We follow Alex as she attempts to unlock both the secrets of Strand’s collection of mysterious black VHS cases, and the dark and mysterious past of the enigmatic man himself. This is The Black Tapes Podcast. Do you believe?
I am always wary of anything that gets reviewed as “THING A meets THING B”, because it almost always falls flat. This one, however, earns its comparison. This podcast has been called “Serial meets The X-Files“, and for very good reason. For those of you who missed the massively popular Serial podcast, I strongly recommend it (it will actually make your listening of this one more interesting). Black Tapes is done in the exact same style, a linear story told week by week as the narrator, Alex, unravels the story of Dr. Richard Strand. The comparison to Serial makes sense, because this show is done in an identical way, even in the little details with music cues and things like that. If you want to jump right into this, you’ll be fine doing that also, but you should still listen to both shows.
So far, I have no been able to find any information in terms of cast members, the whole thing is presented as a real thing, and it works to it’s benefit in pretty huge ways. I do feel bad reviewing this without being able to give credit to the actors, but I suppose that’s all part of it. So, from here on I’m going to refer to them all by their character names, and hopefully you don’t mind. Alex Reagan is very likable as the host, and presents herself in a very similar way to the host of Serial, and Richard Strand has a deep, fantastic voice that I have yet to get tired of listening to. While some of the performances do feel pretty forced and certainly less believable than others, none of them are bad enough to make me stop listening.
While the podcast is fictional, the way that they have set up the world is absolutely fantastic. They have websites for both the show, and the network, as well as an active Facebook page and Twitter page for The Black Tapes. It’s clear on some Googling of different story elements that the world is fictional, but there is only so much you can be expected to produce, and the show does not present itself as real, so it’s completely and totally forgivable. Alex gained her fame as a producer of the very (fictional) popular show North West Stories, which has a huge (fictional) fan base and everything.
The show is extremely atmospheric, and the documentary style is really effective and does feel quite genuine. Listening to it in bed, I found myself getting genuinely creeped out, and even felt uneased by noises in my apartment. Even knowing that this is a work of fiction, it manages to get in under my skin. As I mentioned, I’m not quite finished the series yet, but I am already very fond of it. The first season has ended, and there are promises of a second season. As well, a new series called Tanis started this month, which will be the next thing I look at.
The creator of this series comes from Vancouver, and you can have a look at some information here if you want to know more about the production of the show. Honestly, I would wait until you’ve listened, and had the experience of the show before you break the illusion.
The show is a lot of fun, and really worth your time. If you want something different, and enjoy the idea of a radio play, this is the show for you. Can’t recommend it enough.
Note: I will possibly update this rating when I have finished the series, I am writing from my impressions so far.