The Poughkeepsie Tapes
Director: John Erick Dowdle
Stars: Stacy Chbosky, Ben Messmer, Samantha Robson
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons
Back in 2007 I went to a little arthouse theater near me because that was the only place showing George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead. For the record I think that movie is okay, not great, not bad, just okay. Anyway, there I saw a poster for The Poughkeepsie Tapes and I was interested. But then…nothing. The movie never came to theaters, DVD, Blu-ray, nothing. For ten long years it was just gone, a thing more of myth then real (or is that reel?). So hip-hip-hooray for the good people at Scream Factory for finally bringing this out as a Blu-ray and DVD combo pack. So were these Tapes worth the wait? Let’s find out.
Filmed as a mockumentary, the movie is a doc about an unassuming house in Poughkeepsie where, after the previous tenant moved out suddenly, the property owner starts to clean it up for the next renter and that’s when a whole boat-load of VHS tapes are found: the private video diary of a proficient and prolific serial killer. What follows is half talking-head documentary and half found-footage via the POV of a killer.
But the centerpiece of this movie is not a one-by-one snuff film body count, but the documented slow destruction of a woman whom the killer abducts and tortures for years. Now don’t expect some August Underground-like goregasm (if you don’t know what UA is, consider yourself lucky and keep it that way), but this is still pretty brutal and at times hard to watch. The filmmakers should be commended for their realism, but I can understand why some people might not find this subject matter their cup of tea. If the goal of a horror movie is to horrify you, then The Poughkeepsie Tapes does that job very well. Consider yourselves warned.
Let’s get to the extras Scream Factory has included with this new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. There is a making-of, retrospective featurette featuring interviews with writer/director brothers Drew and John Erick Dowdle that runs 33 minutes. There is a 23-minute interview with actress Stacy Chbosky who played the tragic Cheryl Dempsey. There is also a theatrical trailer. Sadly nothing really goes into the reasons why the movie was shelved for so long and I really wanted to know that. So that’s it for extras, but for this movie the fact it was released at all after all this time is the best special feature of all, so I’m thankful for what we got.
The Poughkeepsie Tapes is a great, creepy little movie and I am thrilled that it is finally available after so long. The video quality doesn’t take full effect of the HD capability of Blu-ray, but then most of it is supposed to look like crappy VHS tapes, and in that it excels. But the quality is the best it can be here; there some good extras, and again: yay for it finally becoming available. So yeah, this one comes highly recommended.