In the vein of Paranormal Activity, Blair Witch and (to an extent) Cloverfield, the Lost Tapes is another attempt to present "staged handfilmed" footage as if it were real. I first heard of this show from my mother who told me that it was based on true frightening accounts and included real video footage of legendary creatures. Unfortunately, I believe that much of the acclaim this series has found is because a majority of its fans believe that the video footage is either real or a recreation based on real events. Let me tell you that neither is true. How do I know? Because I wrote directly to Animal Planet.
According to Animal Planet, these episodes are based on the "possibility that these creatures exist." For example, there is a legend of Sasquatch roaming around parts of the US. Animal Planet's writers think of a way that "somebody" might come into contact with the creature if it existed. Then the writers determine what would be a feasible way that the animal would be captured on film if it "did" come into contact with somebody. The combination of this setting and a reason for it being filmed generates the 15 minute episode. The fact that the entire event is fictitious is not the real problem. The problem is that the level of acting varies from good to mediocre without ever being great. Most episodes are quite cheesy. Some of them never even show the creature in question. The camera becomes shaky, the actor drops the camera, and then you see them being dragged out of the view of the camera. If this were a student film, I'd say it was a very clever concept for a low budget venture into filmmaking. After spending $20, however, I'm not impressed enough by these works of fiction to say that I felt my money was well spent.
At regular interludes throughout the fictional short the episode presents a few 30-60 second pieces of myth or speculation which are much more interesting than the core movie. Some of them are actually worthy of being in a documentary, such as Native American pictures of Thunderbirds, or pictures of Giant Snakes in different parts of the world. However, some of them are also simply useless. The Oklahoma Octopus is one such example. The basis of the episode is that many people drown each year in Oklahoma Lake. That's it. Absolutely no reason why they made an episode about an octopus. In fact, I think it's rediculous to simply assume that an "octopus" is responsible, rather than make an episode about the location and what possible dangers it "could" be.
This series lies in stark contrast to Animal Planet's rival show "River Monsters." Every single episode from River Monsters is completely enthralling, entirely based around fact, and actually SHOWS the animal responsible for attacks. Please read my review on that series if you really want to know why I feel it is better.
Overall, if you have seen this show and like it because you enjoy the fictional encounters with fictional creatures...then please go ahead and purchase the series. If, on the other hand, you have not yet seen this series then please be wary. It is very low budget, and nowhere on par with other shows on Animal Planet. I gave it 2 stars only because it has a little bit of where the legend began (about 2-3 minutes total) and has so many episodes. I'll be giving this to mother and prepare myself for the next season of River Monsters.