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John’s Horror Corner: The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007), a documentary-style horror about a serial killer’s found footage sure to please fans of true crime shows.

May 31, 2021

MY CALL:  This movie serves as a “Serial Killing 101” course and boy is it interesting! I’ll just warn that this wasn’t nearly as “shocking” as the consensus of online reviews suggested to me. Provocative? Yes. Shocking? Nah, not to a seasoned horror fan. Still very good? Absolutely.  MORE MOVIES LIKE The Poughkeepsie TapesWell, by no means similar, but I’d recommend things like Mindhunter (2017-2019) and 8mm (1999). But for more documentary-style horror or documentary-gone-wrong horror, I’d recommend I’d strongly recommend Lake Mungo (2008), The Last Exorcism (2010), Grave Encounters (2011), Grave Encounters 2 (2012), The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014), Digging Up the Marrow (2014), Hell House LLC (2015), Demonic (2015), Ghost Stories (2017) and Butterfly Kisses (2018).

Director John Erick Dowdle (Quarantine, As Above So Below, Devil) delivers all the thrills of watching an actual true crime documentary program. The only far-fetched moments are the very moments that convince us the killer is twisted, just as we’d often experience in such a show.

We explore the discovery and content of a set of tapes comprising 2400 hours of footage taken by a serial killer chronicling what he did to his victims… and a lot of it is weird. Our killer makes women blow up oddly durable balloons and awkwardly pop them by bouncing on them in their underwear; he talks to a young girl before abducting her, with heavy mouth-breathing between his interactions; and he places a husband’s severed head in the partially disemboweled abdomen of his wife and awakens her to see his handywork. But perhaps just as disturbing are the videos stalking his victims in their own homes, often biding his time and enjoying observing from close distances.

The testimonials from FBI profilers, agents, and medical experts serve as an informative “Serial Killing 101” on how to best get away with a murder, from the best way to dismember a body or general profiling strategies to taking advantage of the disjunct flow of information between municipalities were a killer to (apparently wisely) do his serial killing across jurisdictional lines.

Eventually we have footage of the killer interacting with his victims. It’s disturbing. He toys with them, manipulates them, gets them to do things they’d never possibly do, and does things to them they never thought possible.

My final take on this film is that it was not nearly, not even close, to the level of disturbing conveyed to me by my movie reviewing peers online. I’d say this was a good film; a very good movie perhaps; but not “great” and not the shocker that was advertised.  That said, I enjoyed this viewing, but like so many films I imagine I’ll never revisit it simply by virtue of the multitude of other films that need to be seen. But still, this was a pretty cool film!

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