Let’s see if it lives up to the hype.
The Poughkeepsie Tapes is a documentary style film about a fictitious serial killer in New York. While the film doesn’t add much new to the found footage or shock genre, it did manage to become a bit of an underground hit. I imagine this is largely in part due to the troubled release of the film (as it more or less remained underground until 2017) and managed to make a lot of most disturbing lists.
The film also has an internal hype machine in that we have teases of people being so disturbed by the tapes they can’t sleep for months and so forth. The teasing doesn’t work as well for me because it just makes us all impatient to see what is so graphic.
When we are finally shown the shocking crap, it is filmed in such horrible quality that it is more annoying than disturbing (no matter the content). I imagine the killer would have forked out the money for some decent equipment.
However, the most obnoxious part of the film is the static snap that occurs constantly when they are switching between an interview and the found footage. It is painfully loud and distracts constantly. I hate this trend in films and think it ruins any scene it is in. Better sound mixing and visual quality would have made this at least an interesting movie. With the technical side so weak it is hard to enjoy. I don’t care if the grittiness is supposed to be authentic. If you’re movie gives me a headache due to shit sound mixing that is on you.
The acting is about what you’d expect. I guess there is a level of inauthenticity with the pausing and stilted delivery, but it isn’t anything special. There isn’t enough emotion when people are talking about things. It all seems too scripted.
I’m not sure if this is more a criticism of the film or our society, but nothing here is much more intense than anything you see on the always popular true crime documentaries. Our killer here doesn’t seem significantly more disturbed than Richard Ramirez or Ted Bundy, but they treat him in the film like he is something new. I think the familiarity of such actions would make for a more compelling argument.
The film does have its teeth though. The killer is demented, and we are given some interesting twists in the narrative. For fans of documentary horror this one certainly brings it a bit more intense than others. However, there is an imbalance in the film that will leave the purists of extreme cinema wanting a bit more.
Some of the technical issues drove me nuts throughout the whole thing. It is hard for me to give this one a full approval with those annoying aspects. However, the story itself does manage to dive into the depths of human depravity.
The film is fine. It isn’t the most disturbing thing ever, but it is one of the more twisted found footage films out there. Folks who like the extreme will like this one overall.
Edit a day later: I am looking back on the film in a more positive light than this review gave. I would give it a full recommendation if not for the sound issues. It simply wasn’t an enjoyable listen with headphones in. However, I think this one might creep on you a little bit. Give it a go if you’re watching on a television.