The Poughkeepsie Tapes is one of those movies I saw a trailer for a long ass time ago and got excited about it. It was suppose to be released in theaters, but I never saw it in any theater. Then Netflix promised they’d have it on DVD. To this day it’s simply in the “SAVED” section. This movie is harder to find than (insert fat joke here).
FINALLY, I was able to get my grubby little hands on a “screener” (coughcough) and now here we are. The Poughkeepsie Tapes. And I have no fucking clue what to say about it. I could cop out, say “I liked it”, give a rating, and spend 45 minutes trying to figure out how to format this review in WordPress (like I do every week) but you guys came here to see me use my unique take on the English language to talk about horror films. Just remember: you get what you paid for.
The Poughkeepsie Tapes is done in a mockumentary style, which features found footage. So it’s like This Is Spinal Tap meets Paranormal Activity. I hate to use that example, cause this is NOTHING like either of those movies, but it’s the best mainstream examples I could give. (Insert Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon comment here.)
So the “documentary” is about this serial killer from Poughkeepsie, PA who videotaped all his murders. The cops find the tapes and they are now used to profile serial killers. The documentary shows the footage from these tapes. Before I get into the stuff I liked, here’s some things I didn’t like.
1. The camera the killer uses is fucking terrible. He starts this shit in 1992, so I don’t expect clear digital footage. But for YEARS I used a camera that my Grandfather bought in 1992 or so and that footage looked 200 times more better than the shit the killer filmed. I sorta get the reason for this, that this movie was made on the cheap and they couldn’t afford real effects or even CGI gore (or didn’t wanna go that route, which I’m really thankful for) so if they kept everything in shadows, it’ll be better. And I’m not saying I want to see people die or whatever, the shadows worked. What sucked was everything else. When he’s just walking around, in the day time, the footage goes green for a few seconds here and there. The picture keeps bouncing around. It’s kinda annoying after awhile.
2. The stuff the killer says is cheesy as fuck. There’s a part where he picks up a girl cause she thinks he’s a cop. When he reveals that he’s not, he blurts out “You shouldn’t assume things! Cause you make an ass out of you and me!!!”
3. I’ll get into this whole part in a minute here but there’s a scene where the killer walks up to one of his victims mother and he just says “I’m sorry for your loss”. She looks at him, goes “YOU!!!” and he runs away. In the talking head interview, she says when that happened she knew it was him. W-W…WHAT?!?! HOW THE FUCK DID YOU KNOW IT WAS HIM!?!? I mean, yeah it was but that doesn’t make any fucking sense!! It’s not like they said “oh we found a camera imprint in the house” or “he LOVES filming shit”. NOTHING! You know what happens when you assume stuff, lady?!
Alright, those are the bad things. Now onto the meat of the story.
Everything is shown in chronological order, starting with his first kill, which was a 8-year-old girl. We see this whole thing from the camera and even though the killer turns the camera away, it’s still a bit rough to watch cause you’re using your imagination on what’s happening.
After that, he’s picked up by a couple cause he’s stranded on the side of the road. After a minute of awkward conversation, he knocks the guy out and chloroforms the girl. We then cut to a medical examiner who says the killer put the guys head in her stomach, then cut HER head off. And we get some footage of this happening. It is sort of a graphic movie. When you can make out what’s happening.
The next scene really fucked with me cause it plays on one of my biggest (and probably silliest) fears: someone hiding in my house while I’m home. I dunno why I get freaked out by this. I guess cause there are times where I’m home alone and I’m just online doing stuff and I can hear weird shit in the other room.
Ok, sorry to give you a deep psychological insight into me. Hey, the horror guy has issues. Who would’ve thunk it?
Anyway, the killer focuses on a girl named Cheryl, a 19-year-old college student. It’s her Mom he goes up to in the example I gave above. One weekend she’s left home alone, so the killer takes this opportunity. He sneaks in while she’s showering, hides the camera, then hides himself in her closet. While hiding, she gets out of the shower when her boyfriend arrives. It’s assumed (you know what happens when you assume…) that they had sex, all while this guy was watching. Later, he gets out of the closet (I’m too disturbed to make a joke here) and goes downstairs and starts killing the guy. We find out later by a cop all the fucked up ways he killed the guy. Any sensitive readers, skip to the next paragraph. …. Ok, it’s your funeral. The killer cut him open anus to mouth, pulled his guts out, cut his dick off and put the dick in a kitchen drawer.
Happy fluffy bunnies and rainbows!!
Cheryl he keeps alive in his basement. He tells her that her name is now “Slave” and she doesn’t have parents, only him. Then to make this 200 times more creepier, he makes her wear a faceless mask and some weird German get-up. It’s hard to explain the dress. Anyway, she’s kept chained up in the basement and at times he makes her kill the other victims.
So yes, this is a fucked up movie but psychologically. The stuff you don’t see you kinda use your imagination for, along the fact that they play this off as real. The killer never shows himself on the tapes and he gives a name only once, Ed, but this could even be a fake name.
We get more insight on the killer on who he could be, how he’s super smart and changes the M.O on the victims so no one knows if he’s the one responsible or not. Then we THINK he’s captured when they find a guy, arrest him, and he’s found guilty for the murders. It’s now 2001 and he’s executed on September 9th. September 10th the REAL killer leaves a note saying “Missed me!” and the guy is excused for all the killings…on September 11th. Bad day to be found innocent, I say.
Eventually, they trace a map the killer left for a cop and find the killers house. But the house has been wiped clean of fingerprints and they find Cheryl, still alive, but really fucked up. She has no teeth, has several broken bones that never healed, and accepted her status as “slave”.
After a few months, she’s sent home where she doesn’t act the same so she kills herself cause she misses the killer. Then we find out the killer skipped town and he’s still out there. And he could be in YOUR town! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!
The ending of the film has one of the FBI agents telling the camera that the killer could be in the theater now, watching this movie. And anyone who watches this movie more than once will be a suspect. This is a neat trick to bring the audience in on this…if this was ever released in theaters.
I like the whole aspect of not seeing the killer, playing up the faceless killer angle, along the lines of Jason or Michael Meyers. But he’s more fucked up than they are. They’ll just kill random people. This guy he’ll ruin your entire life and fuck with your head, THEN either make you kill yourself or have the legal system kill you. It’s a deep film and it would be better if the three things I pointed out earlier were fixed up.
I really do like this movie. I think modern day horror fans will probably hate it cause you don’t see a whole lot cause, god forbid, you have to use your imagination. Yeah, I complained about not being able to see anything, but it was more how annoyingly obvious it was you couldn’t see anything. And on a personal level, I was a bit disturbed. I haven’t felt this disturbed since I watched “Martyrs”. I’m sure there’s gonna be someone out there who’ll read this and go “Pfft, you’re a pussy! This movie sucks! It’s not scary! blah blah blah” and to you I’ll just say this: FUCK YOU!