There are few films that I have endlessly searched for more than The Poughkeepsie Tapes. The production of the film wrapped in 2006, but as at August of 2011, the movie had yet to see the light of day on the DVD shelves or through any medium outside of Youtube (the link was later taken down).
But the trailer for The Poughkeepsie Tapes looked so eerily fascinating that I have been on the hunt to find this film much like Kirby Sweetman in John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns.
Two weeks ago, while attending the FanExpo in Toronto, I got lucky and found the film among a bin of throwaway titles at a seller’s booth. I swapped it up quicker Barry Allen on speed and I was near hyper-ventilating when I approached my DVD player’s ‘OPEN’ button in horror-geek anticipation.
The idea behind the film was simple – hundreds of videotapes are found in an abandoned home which detail the actions of a serial killer in 1990’s upstate New York that tortured, terrorized dismembered his victims.
The film, as directed by John Erick Dowdle, is presented in mock-documentary form with scenes from the found footage tapes scattered amongst interviews with neighbors, FBI Field Agents and Profilers. And while parts of the movie can be moderately effective, the format doesn’t break any new ground and ends up being more of a distraction than genre-bending ingenuity.
Some of the interviews or scenes involving actors playing character roles are expertly executed and could pass as actual news footage if shown in a different context, but others fall flat like those involving fictional FBI Profiler (retired) Mike Moates and his address to a class full of FBI cadets. In few cases, the dialogue is forced and wooden and takes you out of any belief system installed with the premise.
Even more disappointing were the killer’s tapes themselves. Sure, the tapes dated to the 1990’s, but the camera used by the killer was shaky, out-of-focus and would fluctuate between color and black and white which deteriorated our interest while adding to our frustration.
There isn’t a tremendous amount of violence in The Poughkeepsie Tapes. At least none on screen. A build-up chapter focusing on victim Cheryl Dempsey was a highlight/lowlight and features torture that Eli Roth would consider ‘tickling’ when compared to any of his Hostel entries.
When one has anticipation for a film for a sustained period of time only to ‘luck-out’ in obtaining a rare or hard-to-find print, there is always a tendency to be disappointed with the end production. These films seem to rarely live up to the potential you have created in your own mind and the film can be at a disadvantage before the opening credits roll. But with The Poughkeepsie Tapes, the disappointment comes from the production just not being very good. It is uninvolving, and at times, very boring for a subject matter and format that had ‘home run’ written all over it.
The Poughkeepsie Tapes is rumored to become available on VOD sometime in late 2011. Only then will the followers of it's 5-year odyssey be given a chance to be as disappointed as we were.