The Poughkeepsie Tapes is one of two films that were able to make me feel very uneasy. It has become an unsolved mystery for most independent horror fans. From what I can remember, this film was hyped up. Despite the trailer receiving over 1,300,000 views on youtube, it was given a very limited release in 2007 – only about 20 theatres if I remember correctly. It disappeared from cinemas overnight and has never been heard from again. Luckily, I was able to catch it streaming on a website two years ago. About two weeks after that, it disappeared completely once again.
The Poughkeepsie Tapes is a mockumentary film, which has similarities to the real life serial killer Kendall Francois. He was convicted of killing 8 to 10 women in Poughkeepsie, New York in the late 1990s. In Poughkeepsie Tapes, police raid a house and find over 800 video tapes of a man committing crimes like kidnapping, rape, torture, and murder – mostly all of women. Despite being on film, he is disguised, and has fled the scene, leaving investigators clueless. The film is a mix of the killer’s videos, interviews of professionals, and media coverage of the events.
Recently, horror films have been trying to capitalize on the real life sense in films, especially since The Blair Witch Project. Paranormal Activity was another film that tried to convince audiences that what they were viewing was real. Both films may have been able to fool audience members and viewers, but they were never able to capture the real life sense of horror. I can promise you, if you don’t have a thick skin, The Poughkeepsie Tapes will leave you feeling agitated and nervous.
There are several scenes I will mention, just to give you some insight into the film incase you chose to view it. In one scene, the killer attacks a couple. When the camera begins recording again, the woman’s rib cage is ripped open and her husband’s head is in her chest. Since he didn’t damage any vital organs, she is barely clinging to life. He wakes her up just to video tape her reaction. In another scene, two girl scouts under the age of ten rings his doorbell. He asks them if they want to see his raccoon in the basement. I decided to fast forward there.
A lot of horror fans have questioned if The Poughkeepsie Tapes are real. The actors do such a good job of showcasing fear that you believe you are seeing someone’s death. The film was that disturbing, to me at least. I think this is why the film has disappeared. No theatre is willing to show something so violent and psychologically disturbing, and it is hard to get DVD distribution as well. No distributor will buy a film if they don’t think they will make a profit.
I will never watch The Poughkeepsie Tapes again, only because it was done so well I could swear it was real. Die hard fans of extreme horror will probably love this. So, if you ever get the rare, very rare, chance to see it – you have to decide based on what you read here if it’s something you want to view. This film crosses the line between enjoyable cinema and stirring human emotions far beyond those that Saw or Paranormal Activity can affect. The Poughkeepsie Tapes is good, but it’s too good.