Monday, December 3, 2012

The Poughkeepsie Tapes

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being good and 5, being epic!

The Poughkeepsie Tapes – 4 out of 5

I know what you’re thinking, “Hey Ron, The Poughkeepsie Tapes was only released in a few theaters back in 2007 and it was never released on DVD—in fact, the producers said there are no plans to release it on DVD.” First off, you know you’re history on this movie and have read the Wikipedia on it to the point you have it memorized and yes, it’s true, this movie has NEVER been released on DVD and you know that I review movies that come out on that format. But you should know by now that I often make exceptions to the rule. For example, if I see a movie in the theater that is so bad that I don’t want to see the film again on DVD, I will review it here on the blog. However, thanks to Al Gore’s little invention called The Internet (have you heard of it? It’s pretty amazing!), I was able to get my hands on this film and give it a review for my blog.

I'm not going into detail the things I did to get this copy of the movie.

The Poughkeepsie Tapes is a documentary-style horror film that is one part “found footage” and a whole lot parts creepy. The story follows a unique serial killer (who is never given a nickname due to his unique MO) who murdered tons of people (not literally tons but more like a literal shit load) and filmed it all. The story goes that after going uncaught for over a decade, the FBI was able to track him to his house but he wasn’t there. Instead, they found boxes and boxes of VHS tapes that showed off the man’s tortured victims. So, how did this man go uncaught for so long and, even worse, not get some unique serial killer’s name like The Poughkeepsie POV Killer (that’s the best I could come up with on such short notice)? Simple, the killer was smart and constantly changed his patterns and killing style so the FBI was unaware of all these murders being done by a single man.

This man watches you touch yourself at night and disapproves of it.

The mockumentary speaks to the family members of the victims (and even talks to the only survivor) as well as FBI agents and former profilers who were involved in the fictitious case. Cut within the interviews are glimpses of the killer’s tapes and in the small amounts shown is where all the horror is delivered and it is delivered in a very big, very unsettling way.

And at some point during the movie, a deleted scene from Soundgarden's "Black
Hole Sun" video begins.

It’s very rare that I find myself enjoying a horror film because most horror films are cheaply made (and that has a very BIG impact on the potential for scares for me), have piss poor stories that end up being more ridiculous than scary (like Drag Me to Hell) and the fact that I’m not human and don’t feel this emotion you mortals call fear—I mean, I’m not an alien, so please disregard that last point…it is what you humans call “a joke.”

Does Sarah Silverman have a sister that starred in this movie?

So I have a really hard time getting scared so whenever I sit down with a horror film, I take it with a grain of salt and realize that I’m most likely NOT going to get scared so I focus on how the filmmakers worked at creating an atmosphere that can make those who still have the element of fear in their lives scared. This movie, while didn’t really scare me outright, delivered a film that excellently created a tone for the disturbing in a format that usually, almost immediately, turns me off. I’m speaking, of course, of the genre of “found footage.”

This cop is either doing an impression of French Stewart or Robert De Niro..
or he's just smashed.

I’ve mentioned my disdain for “found footage” numerous times. Most of these films are done because they're cheap to make and they sell quickly. Little money put in for a big return because “quick jump sequences” are easier to deliver (and work frighteningly well) than to create true spine-tingling tension and pants-filling terror. In the broad sense, The Poughkeepsie Tapes is a “found footage” film despite the fact it is delivered in a documentary style telling. I mean, there was FOOTAGE FOUND in the killer’s house—so, I guess it qualifies as a “found footage” movie. Thankfully, this movie is brought to you like a documentary so we are saved from seeing the pointless footage that always mysteriously fills up these films like the unlikeable boyfriend (who bears a creepy resemblance to the unlikeable girlfriend’s stepfather) begging his tormented girlfriend (who’s out of his league) for sex.

Apparently a member of Slipknot made its way into the movie...

The Poughkeepsie Tapes is never outright scary and never makes you jump out of your seat (because they avoid the horror film clichés like the cat jumping out of the dark closet—I still don’t understand why people keep cats in closets in movies) but the set up with the interviews and the fictitious facts given about the nameless killer helps to foreshadow the bile-rising tension and bowel loosening creep-factor the footage of the murders and torture brings the viewer. That’s right, I’m admitting it right now…the movie creeped me out. Sure it didn’t make me lose any sleep but I found the movie and its story to be delightfully disturbing and a refreshing stroke of horror in a genre that has long ago stopped thrilling me.

...and a young Tim Burton...

It’s a shame that The Poughkeepsie Tapes may never see a DVD release (but you can apparently rent it from Blockbuster--for those of you who still know Blockbuster still exists) because the film is quite amazing. While some of the acting may look cheap, the overall presentation and story is top shelf stuff. This ain’t your bargain bin, Wal-mart brand horror film that fills up our theaters ever few week. This wasn’t your usual, “let’s load this up with blood and boobs” type of horror film or your “let’s just half-ass this shit and call it a ‘found footage’ movie” type of film. There was real thought to this and the actors involved playing the parts of those who were either somehow victimized by this frightening serial killer or worked on the case are an eclectic bunch who all avoid the clichés seen within horror films and they feel reel—two characters come to mind who spoke poor English and it only helps solidify the film’s attempt to look genuine (because, no matter how many bumper stickers you put on your car, Tea Baggers, those who don’t speak “the language” will not “get the fuck out.”).

...and a female John Waters--Look there's a lot of actors in this movie who look
like other actors.

The “found footage” genre is built on the concept of making the final product look and feel real but, in an attempt to not make the movie a collection of 30 second clips, these films will include too much screen time to “filler footage” that only hinders the films by eliminating all credibility as I ALWAYS find myself yelling, “Why the fuck are you filming this bullshit?!?” Or they just end up ignoring glaring plotholes that end up completely DESTROYING the film’s credibility like in Apollo 18. That plothole being HOW THE FUCK DID THEY GET THE ILL-FATED JOURNEY’S FOOTAGE BACK FROM THE FUCKING MOON IF WE NEVER WENT BACK THERE!!!! The Poughkeepsie Tapes eliminates the “filler footage” because the fact it’s a documentary-style film, there’s no need to have a scene that involves a douchie guy talking to his girlfriend while she tries to take a dump. We don’t have to sit through an hour’s worth of footage that makes no logical sense to why it’s being filmed—I don’t care if you’re being tormented by a demon, why are you filming yourself strumming your guitar?

The Poughkeepsie Tapes looks and feels real—a feat that has a nearly 100% failure rate with your run-of-the-mill Hollywood “found footage” films for me. If it wasn’t for the occasional appearance of a character actor I recognized from that one episode of that show that is on the tip of my tongue, I would have easily found myself falling into the pit of believing what I saw was real. The fact that the film moved away from the supernatural and kept it grounded in real life only HELPED the film feel more authentic. Granted, the footage of the killer’s work is heavily worked within the editing process to make the quality of the film look bad, off color and out of balance to the point you have to wonder if the killer bought the shittiest, yet somehow functional, camera in all of existence or the editors knew the film had to be tweeked in order to remind the audience (or maybe just me—yeah, I’m that conceded that I think the editors of this film, whom I’ve never met nor have they met me, think about me when editing their film) that this wasn’t real.

Okay...I'll be honest, this scared the crap out of me.

Has this movie renewed my faith in the horror film genre or, more impossible, the “found footage” genre? Absolutely not. While The Poughkeepsie Tapes was truly amazing, it wasn’t amazing enough to drink the Kool-Aid that so many people have tasted that made them fans of the snoozer Paranormal Activity. However, this film proved to be something awesome. It was well put together and delivered a final product that was unsettling and nightmarish due to it feeling “too real.” In fact, it was so good that I have to wonder if the producers of Paranormal Activity are somehow keeping this film from getting a DVD release because it succeeds where PA fails: Making a “found footage” movie that actually looks authentic.

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