Forgotten Friday Flick – “The Poughkeepsie Tapes”

Forgotten Friday FlickWith the category of found footage on their podcast docket, my WhySoBlu buddies examined a very popular facet of the horror genre this week and so shall I…welcome to Forgotten Friday Flick!  Today I’m dissecting one of the few films that actually disturbed me by giving me full panic pause.  It’s a controversial film that has yet to officially be released in theaters, DVD/Blu-ray or even VOD, but was seen early on by yours truly.  The product of wide speculation in terms of quality (the reaction at Butt-Numb-A-Thon 9 was so negative the filmmakers bailed on the Q&A!), realism (the finished film was pitched as being authentic like Blair Witch!) and overall creepiness (the eerie music rings in my head!), it’s nevertheless a nasty nugget that lingers long – and then some.  Grab a cassette, pop it in the player and get ready to view my pick…The Poughkeepsie Tapes!

pough 1

A series of unsolved murders were said to be the work of a serial killer known as the Water Street Butcher and authorities never knew the extent of his carnage…until now.  In a rundown house in Poughkeepsie, New York investigators find a hundreds of tapes left behind that document the reign of terror, torture and ultimately homicide from the brutal killer that spans over a decade.  What’s on the tapes is anyone’s guess, but one thing is for sure – it’s the stuff of nightmares.


Past just being a flick that simply plays excerpts from the videos themselves, The Poughkeepsie Tapes presents them in the form of a documentary (albeit a mock-doc) complete with all the tropes and trimmings to complete the experience.  Meaning there are also mock interviews with FBI profilers, law enforcement and even ailing family members to give the film a genuine feel.  But experts aside, it’s the footage shown on the tapes themselves that has the most unnerving impact.  Sinister scenes involving kids (it made me sick to my stomach), an unsuspecting couple helping a hitchhiker and even a lady who mistakes the killer for a cop to her detriment all carry a weight of dread that never ceases.


But the true sinister in this story has to be the whole kidnapping and conditioning of victim Cheryl Dempsey, played with arresting dedication by amazing actress Stacy Chbosky.  Taken from her family home after her boyfriend is murdered, the masked maniac then proceeds to torture and test Cheryl, breaking down her will and spirit by making her call him master and eventually involving her in his dark deeds.  And in the end it’s not even the myriad of mayhem that she’s involved in that is most distressing, but what she ultimately becomes.

I’m not saying that the film is without a few flaws.  Working early in the genre the team of the Dowdle Brothers (John and Drew) hadn’t quite gotten the grasp of keeping the audience firmly on the hook and as a result there are moments where fake is in full focus.  There are a few gamey actors (the cop describing the crime scene projects pure sitcom shtick!), some terrible turns (Jason Ribling Dismemberment Expert has no place in the movie whatsoever!) and one or two unscary situations (the whole pop balloon threat scene sucks!) but thankfully most are few and far between – what works is in the majority.  The Brothers eventually mastered their techniques with outings like Quarantine, Devil and As Above, So Below, but for my money none of the films have the pure unbridled and unsettling feel of terror that permeates like The Poughkeepsie Tapes.  So that even the most ardent horror fanatic will be guaranteed affected – view these tapes and sleep will be missed.

ThePoughkeepsieTapes poster


I'm a passionate and opinionated film critic/movie journalist with over 20 years of experience in writing about film - now exclusively for WhySoBlu.com. Previous sites include nine years at Starpulse.com where I created Forgotten Friday Flick back in 2011, before that as Senior Entertainment Editor for The213.net and 213 Magazine, as well as a staff writer for JoBlo.com. My other love is doing cool events for the regular guy with my company Flicks For Fans alongside my friend, partner and Joblo.com writer James "Jimmy O" Oster. Check us out at www.Facebook.com/FlicksForFans.

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