Horror Movie Review: The McPherson Tape (1989)

One of the earliest examples of found-footage horror, The McPherson Tape (originally known as UFO Abduction) was written, produced, and directed by Dean Alioto. It stars Tommy Giavocchini, Patrick Kelley, Shirly McCalla, Stacey Shulman, Christine Staples and Laura Tomas.

It’s 5-year-old Michelle’s birthday and the Van Heese family have gathered in the Connecticut mountains to celebrate her birthday. We have the matriarch of the family, Ma, her three adult sons Eric, Jason and Michael, Eric’s wife Jamie, his daughter Michelle (Laura Tomas), and Jason’s girlfriend Renee (Stacey Shulman).

Michael has a new toy, a hand-held camcorder that he is using to record the celebration. Something he does in classic found-footage style, never putting it down and recording just about everything to the annoyance of his family.

Nothing much happens until it’s time for cake and the family discover that the lights will not turn back on. Probably just a fuse, right? While outside investigating the fuse box, the brothers see a red light pass overhead. Curious and a little bored, they decide to go investigate coming across an alien ship in the woods with several aliens standing outside. Attempting to record what they are seeing; the brothers accidently alert the aliens to their presence and make a run back to the house.

Once there, they lock the doors and windows, grab some guns and prepare for any potential alien intruders. To give you some idea of how this goes, the film ends with a message that the Van Heeses’ whereabouts are still unknown and that viewers should contact the producers if they have any information.

Yes, The McPherson Tape goes the ‘its real’ route which would be fine if it wasn’t for so many moments that just take you out of it.

Let’s focus on the number one immersion breaking aspect of this movie and that is the aliens themselves. The film’s cheap quality and basic filming style fails to hide what are clearly actors in costumes. Costumes that reflect the pop-culture look of aliens aka the ‘Roswell look’. It’s about as terrifying as a ‘take me to your dealer’ t-shirt.

Now, this and many other aspects of the movie could be forgiven because of just how little money this film was made for. However, cheap is all good and proper provided the movie at least entertains. Something that The McPherson Tape really fails to do. In fact, it’s downright boring most of the time and the found-footage aspect makes a lot of it unwatchable.

This isn’t a criticism of the tropes. A found footage movie in 1989 was creating them and it wouldn’t be blasé for another 2 decades. That being said, it doesn’t make it anymore enjoyable to view when all you can see is darkness and shaking camera work.

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It’s not impossible to make a decent found-footage horror that surrounds aliens, we have seen some. It is mighty difficult though and The McPherson Tape won’t go down as high point. Ugly to watch, basic characters that you’ll struggle to care about, a meandering plot and very little scares, this one is one to miss.




The McPherson Tape (1989)
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