A Love Letter to Lost Tapes
I've spent a lifetime fascinated by cryptozoology, aliens, and the general unknown. I don't know if I actually believe in most of the stuff I read books on or watch documentaries about, but I can't stop seeking them out. I'm absolutely obsessed.
Sometimes on Sunday mornings and afternoons, when I have nothing better to do, I flip through channels and actually make use of the large TV channel package we have at home. I'll inevitably end up landing on some historical documentary or special about conspiracy theories. And so it was that I ended up watching Lost Tapes for the first time.
Love at First Sight
I happened upon the Death Crawler episode, which is about, as might be guessed, a deadly crawling cryptid. More specifically, it was about a giant killer centipede. I was immediately drawn in and had to know more about this show.
What is Lost Tapes?
Lost Tapes is an Animal Planet series that ran for three seasons, spanning 34 episodes from October 30, 2008 to November 9, 2010. Its pilot, the Chupacabra episode, aired as a Halloween special, with the rest of the series airing later.
The series focused on multiple myths and cryptids, with each episode focusing on a different creature. It was shot mockumentary style, purporting to be found footage of people who had encountered the creature in question.
The first season was very clearly done on a lesser budget than the later two seasons. A narrator was present, but most of the background information was given in the form of text on the screen in between parts of the main story. The creatures also generally weren't shown, with the series instead showing shadows or even just noises and reactions to them.
In fact, quite a lot of the first season even avoids the presence of the cryptids for most of the episode. For example, the Thunderbird episode is almost entirely focused on three boys trying to get to a place where they can film themselves skateboarding. The Thunderbird itself is pretty much incidental, and only comes into play in the last few minutes of the episode.
In the later season, cheap CGI or people in costumes were used to portray the creatures. The show still didn't exactly have the highest budget on television, but it was a noticeable improvement from the first season.
However, that being said, the cheap effects made for some laughably bad visuals. In particular, I love the Alien episode. I can't accurately describe how silly the alien itself looks, and still screens won't do it justice. I suggest watching it for yourself.
Though even with the fakeness of the effects, I was still a little creeped out by some episodes. In particular, the Vampire episode scared me the most out of all of them. It's mainly because of one scene in the episode, when the vampire comes into the little boy's room and grabs his leg while he's sleeping. That's one of my worst nightmares, and the very idea of it scares me a little. (I'm a wimp, I know.)
The later two seasons also added more from the narrator, as well as integrating more clips of experts in various fields to add background information on the subject for that particular episode. And although I do enjoy the first season, I have to admit these additions for the later two seasons make the show far more engaging overall.
One more odd addition the series made was in the third season, with the introduction of the Enigma Corporation, a private security firm that was hired to investigate mysterious incidents. They were featured in three episodes, Zombies, Strigoi Vampire, and Q: The Serpent God. There was no continuity between the episodes, with no indication of what order the episodes took place in, or if the members who survived in every episode, Noel Connor and Elise Mooney, remembered the previous incidents they'd been involved in.
So Why Do I Love It?
Lost Tapes has a combination of things that I love. I'm a big fan of horror movies, and an even bigger fan of cheesy, terrible horror movies. (If there's a horror movie with less than two stars on Netflix, it's basically guaranteed I'm going to watch it, and probably going to enjoy it.) The atmosphere that each episode of Lost Tapes builds within its short 20 minute or so run time manages to give off the feeling of a cheesy monster movie.
Each episode features people in a situation that has somehow led to them filming everything that's happening. They usually make bizarre decisions that lead to otherwise avoidable deaths. They have all the elements of my favorite kind of terrible horror movie.
Except that with all the background information given between parts of the main story, it's actually somewhat educational. Or at least I can tell myself that it is as I watch these cheesy horror story episodes over and over again.
So I urge anyone who, like me, is both a fan of cryptozoology and cheesy mockumentary horror to watch Lost Tapes. Unfortunately the series appears to be out of print on DVD and has long been gone from Netflix, but it can still be easily tracked down by anyone who bothers to look.