The Glenarma Tapes (2023) cover

The Glenarma Tapes is a 2023 Northern Irish found footage horror film, written and directed by Tony Devlin with additional writing from Paul Kennedy. Although the film presents itself as a found footage film, it arguably could have benefitted from a different approach. Nevertheless, it’s a commendable debut from an emerging director whose prowess in the horror genre shows promise for the years ahead.

In Spring 2020, five students and two faculty members from the Mid Ulster College of Art went missing in a forest on the coast of Northern Ireland. What happened on the day they disappeared has remained a mystery – until now.

The Glenrama Tapes

Evidently, there’s an underlying gem concealed within this seemingly mockumentary-style narrative that reassembles lost and found footage. From director Tony Devlin, the story revolves around the disappearance of five art students and two lecturers in a remote Irish forest. The mystery of their sudden disappearance comes lingering through recovered police footage, nearly two years after their vanishing. While the initial setup might bear resemblance to the archetypal found footage scenario often associated with films like the renowned Blair Witch Project, its true value unfolds as the story progresses.

What truly makes The Glenarma Tapes deserving of recommendation is its ability to eschew unnecessary diversions that often consume the runtime of other found footage movies. Every moment serves a purpose, a feat attributed to its skillful pacing and a storyline tailored for the confines of the found footage medium. Despite its 96-minute duration, the film stands out for its compelling characters and their authentic on-screen presence.

The Glenrama Tapes

Interestingly, the cinematography deviates from the grainy and gritty visuals typical of conventional found footage films. This deliberate departure is a thoughtful touch, acknowledging the technological advancements of our era. It also underscores how even the cameras have evolved alongside the medium. Notably, the camera work manages to avoid excessive shakiness, indicating an emerging understanding among horror directors that a steady hand lends itself to better found footage shots.

The story, while bearing elements that might echo previous narratives, is undeniably etched in memory. Indeed, becoming lost in the woods, or simply losing one’s way, is a recurrent motif in the found footage genre. However, in this particular film, the focus extends beyond the mere journey of the five art students. It evolves into a comprehensive day-long expedition through the forest, and the emergence of the plot twist doesn’t linger.

Yet, it’s the aftermath of this revelation that propels the movie to a heightened level of excellence. The subsequent sequence is marked by frenzy, amusement, and a sense of bewildering madness. Imagine anticipating a lighthearted discovery, only to find oneself ensnared in the clutches of an oppressive forest rife with urban legends. The ensuing pursuit is a captivating whirlwind of events. Nevertheless, a potential hurdle arises from the abundance of on-screen action, at times rendering it somewhat challenging to distinguish one character from another.

The subsequent investigation proves equally intriguing. The depiction of how political factors can influence individuals yearning for justice is undoubtedly infuriating. While certain segments, such as the live interview, may have fallen somewhat flat, they find counterbalance through other complementary scenes. However, the ultimate twist in the concluding moments will undoubtedly leave you utterly shocked. This particular revelation stands as one of the most unsettling elements of the film, exuding an eerie realism akin to footage sourced directly from an FBI video on YouTube. This climactic point should rightfully have marked the film’s conclusion, as the actual ending appears to have diluted the quintessence of a “mockumentary” style of found footage.

And therein lies the crux of the matter. The film seemingly treads a path it shouldn’t have, as its overall tone doesn’t exhibit a serious commitment to the medium. The excessive use of homage videos accompanied by synchronized inspirational music, along with implausibly picturesque shots reminiscent of music videos, detracts from its authenticity.

Furthermore, the film transitions abruptly from a third-person mockumentary style to an intensely personal one, which doesn’t seamlessly align with the cohesive nature of the found footage medium. This lack of wholehearted dedication ultimately yields a lackluster contribution to the continually evolving landscape of found footage filmmaking. Regrettably, the film inadvertently strips away the very essence that grants found footage its inherent believability.

Nonetheless, The Glenarma Tapes earns attention due to its surprises. Given that this marks Devlin’s inaugural film, there’s much to expect in his prospective efforts. However, a suggestion would be to concentrate more on exploring urban legends, as exemplified by The Glenarma Tapes. This folklore-themed production underscores the timeless and captivating appeal of local mysteries.



We watched The Glenarma Tapes (2023) at FrightFest 2023

FrightFest 2023

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