The Andy Baker Tape is a slick found-footage story in the style of The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield. Director, co-writer, and co-star Bret Lada, working in tandem with Dustin Fontaine, who plays the titular Andy Baker, delivers a low-budget, high-tension indie that will keep the audience on their toes. As the film opens, we are told that this recording is the last known footage of food blogger Jeff Blake (Lada) and his half-brother Andy Baker.
When we meet Jeff, he’s on the cusp of a successful leap in his career as the Food Network is courting him to move his foodie blog from YouTube influencer status to a regular show on the network. Another odd twist of fate for Jeff is that he tried out a DNA service to track his ancestry and found out that he has a half-brother, Andy, that his recently deceased father never mentioned. So he reaches out to Andy, and as a surprise for his blog followers, travels to meet him. The two hit it off immediately, like long lost, well, you know…
“…Andy and Jeff have a falling out…”
Since Andy and Jeff both need to get to Baltimore, they spend the next few days traveling together, and Jeff includes Andy in the food blog segments. Along the way, Andy reveals that their father was abusive to his mother, and Jeff scoffs at this notion. The father he remembers was always kind and compassionate, particularly toward his children. Andy and Jeff have a falling out when Andy admits he did not actually have a job in Baltimore but was playing Jeff to get him to kick in some funds, as he’s not been too successful. Furious with Andy, Jeff leaves, feeling as though he’d dodged a bullet in finding out his half-brother is mentally unstable. A few weeks later, Jeff learns that he will get a television show. But the network loved the segments with both brothers and insists he includes Andy. Jeff tries desperately to reach Andy, and when they finally do reconnect, the darkest drama begins.
Lada keeps the sickening suspense tight all the way to the end of The Andy Baker Tape. Jeff’s narcissism and Andy’s sudden intense attachment to a half-brother he’d never met before are a toxic mix. The selfie/blog videography keeps the action very close to the characters and gives a stifling authenticity to the growing claustrophobia of the narrative. Jeff’s obsession with capturing everything on video makes the camera a character in the story, bearing witness to the insane psychodrama of diners, drive-ins, and a violently demented duo.
The faux vérité approach to filmmaking is a wonderful way to create a project on a budget as it requires minimal camera setups and just a script outline. If you have a good sense of pace and video composition, a solid concept, and talented actors who can improv, a beautiful result awaits utilizing this style. The Andy Baker Tape rolls all of these elements into a tasty confection of dark entertainment that will leave you hungry, haunted, and horrified all at the same time.
"…a tasty confection of dark entertainment..."