The Poughkeepsie Tapes ***1/2
Written and Directed by John Erick Dowdle
This Film Is Not Yet Rated-an easy R for extremely disturbing content, some nudity, strong violence).
"The Poughkeepsie Tapes" is a rare film. It is one of the only films that I could think of that actually succeeded in scaring the living daylights out of me, something that no modern day horror film has ever done. The film takes fear to a new level, and actually makes death and torture creepy. This is really a strong competitor to the sniff violence and torture films of late-"Saw," "Hostel," "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," etc. "Poughkeepsie Tapes" is shown in mockumentary style, and tells about a killer who terrorized a few towns for ten years. The killer would basically take anybody, bring them into his basement for an extended amount of time, and then mangle their bodies. The twist is that he would record everything, and eventually he left a series of tapes in his house in Poughkeepsie for the police to find. The film focus is that of the killer and Cheryl Dempsey, a young teenager who he kidnapped and held in his lair for eight years, calling her slave, having her repeat the phrase "You are the master and I am pleased to serve you," over and over again, while wearing some kind of freaky mask. Meanwhile the cops try with no avail to find the killer.
Much of the film actually takes place on the videos that the killer does, which allows for a creepy atmosphere, similar to the feeling of watching January's "Alone with Her," only this time there is actual fear. And the torture mostly takes place off screen, with the most shocking things either taking place in the dark or off camera. The scenes between Cheryl and the killer in the basement will make you hold your breath, and the green tint of the tape as well as the no edits make for extreme realism. there is also a somewhat dark comedic tone at times, especially the way that the police and reporters handle the situations-sometimes it seems like writer/director Dowdle is actually saying that this killer is smarter than everyone else, which is usually the case. I also enjoyed the way September 11th is used, another commentary on where priorities lie in this country. At the screening the woman that played Cheryl made a comment saying that this film is not disposable like films like "Saw," and "Hostel" are. And that is the truth. This is something so shocking and creepy that it will stay with you long after you leave the theatre. It is a tragic horror story that borders on real life, which is often worse than what is concocted out of people's imaginations.