One of the earliest found footage horror films, “The McPherson Tape” has toured the UFO conventions and evaded a proper debunking for 30 years.
Bringing a home video camera out to record his niece’s 5th birthday party, a Man captures more than cake and candles as the family encounters extra-planetary guests. Let’s dig into 1989’s The McPherson Tape, directed by Dean Alioto.
As I See It
With a warm heart, the opening reminds me of my home videos. My Uncle, who always had cutting edge consumer technology, would film my Sicilian Grandmother as she gave him the Dio devil horns (something I learned before I even knew what Heavy Metal was). That haphazard, yet genuine capture of familial interactions makes the opening scene of this film ooze with chemistry. It’s easy to believe the Actors sitting around the dinner table either are family or have spent enough time together to act like it.
Originally titled U.F.O. Abduction, a warehouse fire reportedly destroyed the master tapes before the film could be mass distributed. A bootleg, and title-less copy of the film, made the rounds for years as real deal abduction footage, and somehow the new title caught on.
I must admit, the story of the fire and all the military personnel believing this footage to be bona fide is something I am more than suspect of.
It is hard to believe that anyone saw this as “real” footage, but maybe that is because I’m looking at it from a lens of cinematic analysis rather than proof to support my theory of little green men. I mean, the Grandmother is fed lines mid-scene for goodness sake!
The repetition of the line “What the hell is that!?” makes it sound like an episode of Ghost Hunters, and the on-screen result is the same: We see nothing! That’s the beauty of fictional cinema and leaving things to the imagination. A legend is born from the dark and shaky scenes shot here.
Statistically it’s impossible we’re alone, but baby this ain’t the proof of the pudding.
Regardless, Alioto succeeded in creating a cultural phenomenon the same year that Bob Lazar came forward. Ironically, Lazar’s appearance on the infamous Joe Rogan Podcast in 2019 coincided with this film’s Blu-ray release, pushing both back into the limelight once again. The lore outweighs the source.
Everyone knows the little Grey Men.
Of Gratuitous Nature
Dean Alioto only filmed what he needed to. Coming in at a crisp one hour six minutes, there was scant time for gratuitous violence or probing.
She’s not in this version, but Emmanuelle Chriqui, best known as Sloan from Entourage, is in the remake — if that is any more motivation to give that one a go.
Ripe for a Remake
It’s safe to say the made for TV remake was green lit based on the mythology behind the original film. Dean Alioto, if nothing else, pulled off an expert marketing campaign and achieved his goal of making a VHS version of H.G. Wells War of the Worlds (the effect it had, not the movie itself). That really sets the stage for what would be possibly the most brilliant marketing campaign in cinematic history, The Blair Witch Project (1999). Technology where it is today of course would lend to a better-looking remake, but I see little chance of it achieving what Alioto did with so little in 1989.
As mentioned, a remake was made in 1998 called Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County.
Where to Watch
A Blu-ray version released in 2020, with all versions of the film, including a Director’s cut. It’s available through the American Genre Film Archive and Vinegar Syndrome. You can also find a low-fi copy of the film on YouTube.