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Podcast Review: The Black Tapes

Everyone’s been talking my ear off about this podcast but I’ve been avoiding it, not really being an audio drama kind of way. The journalistic dress-up helps with that, I guess, since I’m now a convert.

The black tapes referenced in the title are a collection of cases (and sometimes actual VHS tapes) that a skeptic paranormal investigator (Dr Strand) has gathered over the years. Cases that he couldn’t debunk or prove either way. The journalist (Alex) meets him while recording a podcast about people with interesting, or different, jobs. This changes the nature of the podcast and leads to them investigating these unsolved cases, of sorts.

Production values, voice acting are absolutely top notch. If you’re tired of lazily recorded podcasts of dudes around their living room talking about the Avengers movies or whatever, this podcast is a salve. Probably a good entry point for podcasts of this type too. 

The writing is fairly good. The only thing I’ve had issue with was the overall plot progression and format of the show. The writing itself, episode to episode, scene to scene is solid throughout. So what’s my issue?

At least as far as I’ve listened of it (season 2 episode 4), the show is frustrating in that it often presents cases, features a couple of interviews and then closes without any kind of resolution. While it’s true that most cases end up showing up again, slowly progressing and revealing their secrets, I’d argue it’s fairly frustrating to follow a case throughout 14 episodes and there’s still no end in sight.

It doesn’t help that some of them are really vague or plain goofy, like the episode about a ”hard rock” band that “wants to become the new Soundgarden or Nirvana,” whose lead singer “hammered a butter knife into his chest with a mallet.” 

Others are surprisingly effective and will probably creep you out. The one about the talking boards was a good one.

Perhaps most interesting is the overarching plot about Dr Strand  and the disappearance of his wife. Alas, just like every other case, it moves slow as molasses, with morsel bites thrown at the audience every other episode or two. 

I feel like I’m being too hard on this show. Before I started getting frustrated with the pacing, I was enjoying it immensely and it’s such a well produced show that it’s hard to not recommend it.

Worth a look.

4 out of 5 VHS Tapes