The Blog Lagoon’s 31 Days of Halloween – Day Three: The Poughkeepsie Tapes (Reviewed)

"The Poughkeepsie Tapes" -- NOT coming to a theater near you.

"The Poughkeepsie Tapes" -- NOT coming to a theater near you.

I first saw a trailer for The Poughkeepsie Tapes (reviewed below) online, two years ago.  This one.
I’m easily suckered by an artfully crafted piece of promotion like that, so with great anticipation I kept watching for a nailed down release date to emerge. The trailer promised “THIS SPRING” way back in 2007 and for awhile, I totally forgot all about PT. I was reminded of it while reading a review for another promising horror movie, [REC], a Spanish-made zombie flick that was remade stateside as Quarantine last year. (I’ve been trying to procure a subtitled version of [REC] online and recently DVR’d Quarantine which I hope to watch and review sometime this month.) [REC] shared a low-budget faux-documentary style with the unreleased PT, to which it was favorably compared. Both movies were heralded as worthy successors to The Blair Witch Project in that they were  all shot on a shoestring as a documentary and both, evidently, were terrifying. Well, here we are in October of 09 and PT, despite being snatched up by MGM for a theatrical release, never got its day in the sun. Even after winning favorable notices when it premiered at 07’s Tribeca Film Festival, for whatever reason, PT was shelved and as of this writing (and despite IMDB informing me that it received a January 09 release in Venezuela) there is still no announced US release date for PT, nor any known plans for a DVD release.

But after doing some sleuthing online I finally found my way to a MegaUpload page where someone had posted it in a 3-part RAR file. I downloaded it immediately, fearing someone would take it down, and watched it right away.

So, yeah. This movie does not fuck around.

If and when it gets released, you should get your hands on a copy, or if you’re patient enough to do the online legwork, PT is definitely worth a search.  Considering all of the terrible horror flicks that DO find their way to the multiplex it’s especially sad to see what was obviously a filmmaker’s tight, polished and indisputably unnerving labor of love sink into obscurity.

THE POUGHKEEPSIE TAPES (2007)
The Poughkeepsie Tapes has succeeded where many have failed. This is a phony documentary done right. Unlike The Blair Witch Project which made an entire feature from “found” footage, PT plays things closer to how things were done in (the surprisingly effective) The Blair Witch Curse— the made-for-TV supplemental special that aired on the Sci Fi Channel in tandem with BWP‘s release. It’s lensed as a true-crime style presentation. The type of glossy production you might stumble upon on a Sunday afternoon when there’s nothing on cable other than specials on Hilter and serial killers. The focus of this presentation is the Water Street Butcher: a prolific, intelligent, slippery, and tres sadistic serial killer whose sequentially labeled, 800-count video tape collection is discovered in the closet of his abandoned home by police. PT jumps back and forth between interviews with FBI profilers, cops, coroners, victim’s family members, and the movie’s centerpiece: clips from the tapes themselves. To reveal too much more would really do a disservice to anyone hoping to get their hands on this elusive coulda-been cult classic. Suffice to say that the performances range from convincing to laughable, but nearly everything else about PT works. Be warned, however, that PT’s horrors are not for the squeamish and some of the movie’s more violent moments actually hurt what is otherwise a tense and effectively atmospheric horror show. (I’m hardly an enthusiast of the type of torture-porn that passes for horror these days, and PT does indeed contain more than one unnecessary squirm-inducing splash of human torment.) It works best when it’s being vague about the atrocities that we know are unfolding along the margins of the story. Some of the movie’s best visuals are terrifying because they’re more suggestive than graphic; fleeting glimpses of unspeakable awfulness that make you sit up straight and mutter “oh, now what the fuck was THAT?” When when we’re given an opportunity to watch events unfold from the killer’s POV as he stalks his prey, and the insiduous games he plays with his unknowing future victims and the authorities he’s confounded, the tension is excrutiatingly delicious. But when the movie lingers too long on cuts of the “found” clips, realism begins to unwravel and the shocks begin to look a little pedestrian. But that’s not much of a complaint when one considers the number of things done right with such limited resources. Pray for an eventual US release for PT. It deserves some recognition. It also deserves a reputation. And while I’m glad I was finally able to dig it up, I only regret that I’ll never have the opportunity to watch it for the first time in a packed theater of like-minded sicko thrill-seekers.
***

Pssst… : Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 (PW: rony)

~ by Number5ive on October 3, 2009.

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