Directed and written by brothers John and Drew Dowdle, The Poughkeepsie Tapes is a “found footage” film, told in a faux-documentary style.
Centering on the town of Poughkeepsie, New York, a stash of over eight-hundred disturbing video tapes of torture, murder and dismemberment from a serial killers decade long reign of terror have been discovered in an abandoned house. The audience is presented with interviews of FBI officials, psychologists, police offers, victims’ parents, and much more. Every so often, the clips are punctuated by a videotape itself, showing one of the killers’ acts of torment or assault on one or more of his victims.
As the film progresses, things become deeper, more intriguing, and inevitably, more and more engrossing. Images and sequences increasingly become exceptionally haunting. The profile of the killer constantly changes as officials confess they have no idea who it is. Even wrongly naming an innocent man. The execution is one of style and detail that doesn’t rely on loud, abrupt musical chords and cheap jump scares.
The lead actress, Stacy Chboksky (Devil, Quarantine), who portrayed Cheryl Dempsey did a brilliant job with her role. Her scenes once she was found were amazing and I found myself enthralled by her acting.
The Poughkeepsie Tapes occupies more than just mindless snuff, but depth and an efficient backstory. The degree of realism is impeccable and was achieved without the pretentious “based on a true story” tagline. After watching this film I found myself researching The Poughkeepsie tapes to find out if it was based on a true story – it’s not. It does have some likeness to the real life serial killer Kendall Francois, who was convicted of killing 8 to 10 women in the late 1990’s in Poughkeepsie, New York. The similarities end there though as the real killer and movie killer have no comparison.
A lot of thought, time and effort has gone into the making of The Poughkeepsie Tapes, and overall I personally enjoyed it a lot. I’ve even watched it twice within the space of a week! For many, The Poughkeepsie Tapes will definitely shock or scare you in some way. I recommend it. However, the film has yet to find US distribution and given its age, it’s tough to say if it ever will.
Since The Poughkeepsie Tapes, the Dowdle brothers have gone on to write and direct Quarantine, Devil, and As Above, So Below.
WICKED RATING: 7.5/10
Title: The Poughkeepsie Tapes
Director: John Erick Dowdle
Writer(s): Drew Dowdle, John Erick Dowdle
Stars: Stacy Chbosky, Ben Messmer, Samantha Robson
Studio/ Production Co: Brothers Dowdle Productions, Poughkeepsie Films
Sub-Genre: Mystery, Thriller