In 2007, I found myself making the mistake of going to see Transformers in the theater and sat through one of the most terrifying trailers I’ve ever seen. The trailer, for John Erick Dowdle’s found footage-like film The Poughkeepsie Tapes, promised one scary ride, full of home intruding, kidnapping and straight up terror. I walked out of Transformers already forgetting Michael Bay explosions and vehicle robots and was incredibly anxious to see The Poughkeepsie Tapes when it would soon arrive… or so I thought. The film was shelved and became something that was spoken of in the import sections of horror conventions for years, until a limited VOD release last year and now, thanks to the gang over at Scream Factory, a brand new DVD/Blu-ray of the long-delayed shocker. “Was it worth a decade long wait,” you ask? It most definitely was.
Revolving around a series of VHS tapes found by the police, following a raid, The Poughkeepsie Tapes goes back and forth between the shocking footage on each tape, all documentation of a serial killer’s crimes, and interview footage of FBI agents/profilers and family members of victims of the murderer. It’s incredibly easy to forget that you’re watching a found footage-type film and get on board with being completely scared out of your mind with the film, and seeing footage of the killer approaching a little girl and abducting her, taking a couple and doing something gruesomely sinister to them and many other crimes, makes it such an intense experience, that you have to remind yourself that you’re not watching a straight up snuff film, but a work of fiction.
The interviews with FBI agents and profilers never feel contrived or unrealistic in The Poughkeepsie Tapes and footage of a chat with one of the only survivors of the killer’s rampage shows Stockholm Syndrome in full effect, shining a light on the psychological effects of kidnapping and torture and what it could do to someone. It’s tragic and completely engrossing at the same time, and there is so much to latch onto with the film, that it should be required viewing for horror fans or even for genre fans who typically hate found footage-like films.
THIS is how a film within that sub-genre should feel, it oozes tension, getting under your skin and forcing you to continuously check your doors long after the film is over. With each tape, we see various crimes, everything from stalking a woman in her own house, to forcing a captive to sit on balloons, the killer in the film runs the entire gamut of being creepy and weird and it’s downright SCARY to watch.
With how shocking and eerie The Poughkeepsie Tapes is, I can understand why MGM felt like holding onto it for a while. It feels almost a bit too dangerous for your typical surface level horror fans, but those genre lovers looking for something to keep them up at night without a wink of sleep, this is most definitely the film for you.