‘The Poughkeepsie Tapes’ has quite the unfair and odd history; It’s trailer began circulating around 2006/2007, I for one was intrigued and looking forward to seeing it, then it just seemed to disappear. MGM apparently only gave the film a very limited release, where the film didn’t exactly set the box office on fire obviously, and since then there has been no plans to release it for home viewing. Very odd considering how popular the “found footage/mockumentary” sub genre has been over the past few years, you’d think they’d want to at least try and make some profit through a DVD/Blu Ray release. But no.
The film takes the mock/shockumentary approach of films like ‘The Last Broadcast’ and the Blair Witch TV special ‘The Curse Of The Blair witch‘, combining interviews and news reports with supposed found footage. The footage this time being the video journal of a prolific serial killer who’s killing spree lasted almost a decade. Does it work? Yes and No…
My first problem with the film were the interview segments, compared to the aforementioned films they feel far too scripted and at times either a little on the wooden or over acted side. Some of the performances are fine, most notably the former FBI profiler, but others feel like you’re watching an audition rather than an interview, they just don’t feel natural.
The actual found footage is rather effective and at times pretty grim and disturbing. And even though we’re dealing with a diary of a serial killer (a rather flamboyant and theatrical one too, he likes masks and balloons) there is actually very few gratuitous on camera deaths, which was a smart move, if it was just a death fest it would’ve become pretty tedious within the first twenty minutes.
One problem with the footage (as well as the overuse of post production tracking and colour bleeding) is that they felt the need to add music to it…I know this is supposed to be a documentary so its not like we‘re just dealing with 90 minutes of found footage where scoring would seem really out of place, but it presents itself as a serious documentary examining a horrendous series of crimes…adding music to women being kidnapped and killed kind of cheapens the whole thing. It reminds me of the scene in ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ where the editor tells Robert Kerman that he “added some music to juice things up a little”, its lame. ‘The Poughkeepsie Tapes’ most tense and disturbing scenes would’ve been far more tense and disturbing without rumbling “chase music” added in there to “juice things up a little”.
The most interesting (and most unsettling) part of this whole story concerns a young woman who was abducted by the killer and held hostage for almost a decade as his slave. He forces her to wear a kinky maids outfit, an extremely creepy female rubber mask and even forces her to kill someone for him. Add to that a rather sinister moment where the killer chats to the woman’s mother and offers his assistance in finding her daughter. Oh he’s a right little shit bag isn’t he?
All in all, it has it’s problems but it does have enough good stuff in it to recommend it and certainly doesn’t deserve to be languishing in limbo. I’m sure eventually it’ll come out, what with director John Dowdle having gone on to co-direct some pretty well known films over the past few years (Quarantine/Devil).