Horror-locker Movie Review: The Poughkeepsie Tapes


“We serial killers are your sons, we are your husbands, we are everywhere. And there will be more of your children dead tomorrow.” – Ted Bundy

The Poughkeepsie Tapes has been something I’ve found myself coming back to wanting to watch but for whatever reason never getting around to it, until now. I think one of the greatest traits a film can possess is something imperceivable until I would argue at least a decade has passed and that is if the story, the effects, the film as a whole still holds up, if it ever did. I don’t think the creators of this particular movie could have anticipated the obsession of true life crime stories that we now find ourselves swept up in. And this is where I would argue The Poughkeepsie Tapes falls apart. At this point, anyone interested in this particular movie would in all likelihood find themselves a fan of true crime documentaries, much like what this attempts to manifest with a fictional script.

We know the steps, we are familiar with the process of these true crime docs and can spot things coming from a mile away at this point. One thing we can usually spot is if the people involved have a genuine interest in the subject at hand. With The Poughkeepsie Tapes you can spot the bad acting much like the common jumping points of your average crime doc. We can guess when someone in real life talking about such dark subjects could become emotional and with this mockumentary it never feels authentic. It always feels staged, scripted, planned out every step of the way.

I looked up some reviews prior to my own viewing and the general consensus is that this is one disturbing experience. I found the opposite to be true. It felt overly dramatic in a soap opera kind of way. The acting as stated before is forced, always made to be so damn serious to the point of being disingenuous. And the killer himself, let’s talk about this buffoon. It’s explained through fake interviews and found footage that this man has an affinity for the theatrical, hence his stage oriented mask he dons whenever he’s killing. It’s so over-the-top, made to be scarier than any other serial killer in modern day America.

It is stressed ad nauseam that this particular killer’s way of operating is disturbing, his technique is so unique. They really try to drive home the idea that this man is to be feared above all else and it becomes downright comical at times. When you see his tapes he acts as if he’s on stage performing for someone, and again it’s just silly and unrealistic. He is rarely intimidating. I found him more pathetic than fearsome. With all the experience we now have with the inundation of true crime series and docs, we have a better idea of what scary truly is, we understand when to cower in discomfort and when to scoff from indifference.

Now much like Saw, the focus there being the traps, the torture, the point here are the tapes, becoming more disturbing as they unfold. They feel acted much in the same way the interviews with fake FBI agents are and sound bites of the frantic 911 calls of those left behind in the killer’s wake. In a movie I will review for the Horror-locker series called Lake Mungo, it’s a prime example of a mockumentary done to perfection. I won’t say a lot about it beyond it being everything The Poughkeepsie Tapes tried to be, genuine, terrifying, and truly unforgettable.

I never bought into anything presented here. The acting pulled me from the “reality” of it, the disturbing nature of the tapes is overshadowed by overly dramatic bad acting and a killer that is not even half as scary as a monster of the week on The X-Files. The most jarring thing about this movie are the sudden and extremely frequent cuts featuring loud bursts of white noise. Maybe when it premiered it had something but at this point I’ll stick with actual true crime and be every bit as enthralled and captivated as this haphazard attempt wanted so desperately to achieve.

Rated R For: sadistic violence and torture, including terror and graphic descriptions
Runtime: 81 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller, Mockumentary
Starring: Stacy Chbosky, Ben Messmer, Samantha Robson
Directed By: John Erick Dowdle

Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 3/ Acting: 2/ Directing: 3/ Visuals: 3
OVERALL: 2.5 Nerdskulls

Buy to Own: No

Check out the trailer below:

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Chase Gifford

"Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world"-Jean-Luc Godard