By Merle Bertrand | February 10, 2000

The first sign of trouble here is that, um, “15 Minute Tape” isn’t really fifteen minutes long, but twenty-three. The second tip-off comes when the simulation of a couple learning how to use a camcorder for the first time is more interesting than the big pay-off murder scene. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Joe, as mentioned, has just bought a new video camera. Like most couples with a new toy, Joe and his girlfriend set about breaking it in and generally making fools of themselves in the process. “Is this thing on?” that sort of thing. This, by the way, is the most believable portion of this film. Then the girlfriend videotapes herself dancing to a new CD she bought for Joe, intent on surprising him. When a knock on the door interrupts her, she answers it…only to fall prey to a sadistic rapist and murderer whose crimes are all captured on camera. Well, kinda, which points up the third and biggest flaw; that being that this film pulls its punches more than stunt men in a Hollywood bar brawl. The killer drags his victim behind a couch and from that point on, the single locked-off shot simply shows his back as he attacks the woman. Not that I’m a huge fan of exploitative violence, especially when it’s meant to be taken seriously, as opposed to, say, a “Scream” flick, but this was such a cop out. Even worse, when the scene is over, director Mike Tarnower has tacked on nearly eight minutes — the eight that makes “15 Minute Tape” longer than fifteen minutes, mind you — of credits, bloopers, and silly behind the scenes footage, thus undercutting the horror we’ve just witnessed. It was as if he was so uncomfortable with what he was portraying, even though he wasn’t really portraying it, that he had to tack on this “It was just a movie, folks!” post-script. Either make a brutally cautionary horror film, or don’t. Just don’t wuss out like the ending of “15 Minute Tape.”

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