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The Poughkeepsie Tapes (Blu-ray Review)

Leave it to Scream Factory to finally unearth upon everyone a long unseen, but well heard about horror movie. Its been 10 years since The Poughkeepsie Tapes had its first trailer come out for the planned release in 20o8. And then…well…it had two screenings and disappeared. Sure, those who have wanted to see the film have found the way or means to be able to scratch the itch, but its never been available on home video via a physical format or legit legal stream. Scream Factory now is finally making it the real deal here with the Blu-ray release of this notorious unseen found footage film that’s infamy has had people curious to see it. You’ll be able to add it to your horror film marathon viewing in October by pre-ordering using the Amazon link below.

Film 

Throughout the 1990s, a serial killer terrorized upstate New York. After a decade-long crime spree conducted largely under the radar of law enforcement, the killer left behind the most disturbing collection of evidence homicide detectives had even seen – hundreds of homemade videotapes that chronicled the stalking, abduction, murder and disposal of his victims. The Poughkeepsie Tapes examines these horrific tapes at length: what they reveal about the killer, why they were made and how FBI profilers have used them to better understand violent, psychopathic behavior. The Poughkeepsie Tapes combines interviews surrounding the devastating impact of the “Water Street Butcher,” with shocking footage from the tapes themselves.

Notoriously, The Poughkeepise Tapes pissed off a crowd of people at the known sexual assaulter Harry Knowles’ Butt-Numb-A-Thon’s screeing of the film. Part of the issue is that the people behind the film tried to pawn this off as being a completely 100% legitimate true story. People quickly realized they were being had and kinda turned on it. Earlier at Tribecca Film Festival, this film had been very well received and landed director John Erick Dowdle a high profile gig. Luckily he got that, because his film was eventually pulled.

When I originally saw The Poughkeepsie Tapes, I was not really a fan of it. So when when this Blu-ray was announced, my reaction was “Yay, watch people get disappointed by something overhyped”. However, I’m glad they did release it, because I actually enjoyed it a lot better this time around. This is a rather mean film, hard to watch at times and pretty ugly. I realized, yeah, why does it have to be nice? This is horror. I also watched it now, distanced from the onslaught of found footage movies coming out all the time. The Poughkeepsie Tapes turns out to be one of the better ones.

The Poughkeepsie Tapes takes itself a notch above most found footage movies because, well, it was made before the term “found footage” was even a thing. It was supposed to come out around the same time as Cloverfield and before Paranormal Activity took off. Its not harmed or informed by any tropes. The film also takes the faux documentary approach which helps keeps things together a little better. Its not one that’s going to change the world or blow your mind, but its pretty solid and one of the better found footage horror films.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-25

Clarity/Detail: The Poughkeepsie Tapes presents itself as a documentary featuring a lot of footage from old min-dv like sources as well as “old news clips” and the like. Its not really easy to give a fair judge on any of that. However, it looks as you’d expect and it was intended. The interviews segments show strong though, with a crisp look and details abundant.

Depth:  Pretty average. The interviews definitely show much distancing than the mini-dv things. Movements are cinematic and natural in appearance.

Black Levels: Blacks are really deep and rich. In the interview segments it enhances sharpness and keeps some good details. Of course the cam footage looks bad. No crushing witnessed though, during any of this during my view for this review.

Color Reproduction: Colors in the interview segments are natural and good. Blues are very strong. Colors are of course all over the map, as to be expected.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent when it comes to the interview segments in the film. Facial details in terms of wrinkles, make-up, dimples and such are solid.

Noise/Artifacts: No issues other than ones that are intended.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: Like the video, much of the audio comes from the crummy mini dv as well. The effects and such have to be taken with that in mind. Though they do some enhanced to a degree that they do make an impact. The “supposed to be good” parts, being the interviews, contain good clarity, depth and balance.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is clean and clear, with good attention to diction from the talking heads in this mix.

Extras 

The Poughkeepsie Tapes comes with the DVD edition of the film.

Sorting Through The Tapes (HD, 33:33) – The director and writer (Well, the director wrote it too, but…) sit down and discuss how they came up with the idea, originally thinking more a comedy, but decided to go bleak. They actually go through some more interesting technical aspects of scenes in the film as well as going through their personal inspirations for the film.

The Willing Victim (HD, 22:42) – Stacy Chbosky is very glowing as she discusses the film. She discusses her relationship with her husband John Erick Dowdle and the filming. But, she actually goes over how it did at Tribeca, how they reacted to it getting pulled and the cool factor of being a cult film that people had to basically “steal” to watch it.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:39)

Summary 

The Poughkeepsie Tapes can finally be seen by those who’ve been holding out hope and waiting on a release like this for years.  And it shouldn’t disappoint. The film has some terrific video and audio. Extras include interviews with all the pertinent folks and they got John Erick Dowdle (A busy working director) back to discuss his lift off point as a filmmaker. I’d say due to the length of time to get this thing out and how rare the film has been, if you’re a horror collector, you might want to nab this just to hold onto for rarity sake.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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