THE POUGHKEEPSIE TAPES – Film Review

Hundreds of videotapes of torture, murder, and dismemberment show a killer’s decade-long reign of terror.

Although it may seem like a distant past nowadays, there was a time (particularly in the early 2000s), when found-footage horror movies essentially dominated the box office and they were almost inescapable. It seemed like every other week there would be some brand new found-footage horror flick coming to theatres that hoped it would become the next The Blair Witch Project, but most of them never did. And that’s mainly because a lot of them were extremely cheap attempts at scaring an audience.

One of the biggest examples of this is the Paranormal Activity franchise that was quite literally dominating theatres when that series was still on fire. The first film, which was made on a budget of an incredibly small $15,000, ended up grossing $193.4 million at the end of its theatre run, so of course, a sequel was inevitable. Sadly though, with each passing film in the series, they all started to feel more and more repetitive, unscary, and tedious.

Courtesy of MGM Distribution Company

But there is one found-footage film released in the 2000s that never really took off, and even all these years later, it’s still an underappreciated gem. That movie is John Erick Dowdle’s The Poughkeepsie Tapes, a film that masquerades itself as an actual documentary about a horrific and twisted serial killer in Poughkeepsie, New York, and throughout, we see little segments about “real people” that are directly connected to the killer whether it be a victim’s family member, a survivor of his attacks, etc.

The film is remarkably short at a mere eighty-six minutes, but there is not a single second wasted here. It’s a non-stop, starkly chilling descent into madness that feels so real, that you will forget it’s scripted while watching it. The way they present this serial killer as a real person is amazingly well done. Writer/director John Erick Dowdle definitely has a bold and creepy mind for horror and although he has now gone on to find some success in horror these days with films such as Devil and As Above, So Below, it’s still disheartening that his crown-jewel of the genre still remains buried.

There are some scenes in the film that drag on for far too long and yes, perhaps a longer running time would have been a tad bit better, but The Poughkeepsie Tapes still remains a horrifying and unsettling watch and will prove to be hard to stomach in all the best ways, even for horror aficionados.

Overall Grade: A-

MPAA Rating: N/A

Cast: Stacy Chbosky, Ben Messmer, Ivar Brogger, Lou George, Michael Lawson, Samantha Robson, Ron Harper, Kim Kenny, Iris Bahr, Lisa Black, Bill Bookston, Jules Bruff, Todd Cahoon

Directed by: John Erick Dowdle

Distributed by: MGM Distribution Company

Release Date: April 27, 2007

Running Time: 86 minutes

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