The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007)

poughkeepsie tapes poster 2007 movie
5.0 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 4/10
Visuals: 5/10

Some creepy moments

Actors trying not to be actors doesn't work

Movie Info

Movie Name: The Poughkeepsie Tapes

Studio: Brother Dowdle Productions

Genre(s): Horror

Release Date(s):  April 27, 2007 (Tribeca Film Festival)/July 19, 2014 (US)

MPAA Rating: R

poughkeepsie tapes torture victim serial killer

Get use to torture if you want to watch this…

A killer is stalking Poughkeepsie, New York.  As profilers and analysts try to access his crimes from the tapes left behind, the true horror of the killer is revealed through what he did to his victims and the sadistic murders and torture he committed.  A killer is among the people of Poughkeepsie and he could be smarter than the people trying to hunt him.

Written and directed by John Erick Dowdle (with help from his brother Drew Dowdle), The Poughkeepsie Tapes is a documentary style found footage horror film.  The movie initially premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2007 but didn’t receive a wide release until 2014.  It was met with mixed reviews.

The Poughkeepsie Tapes tries to grab a lot of audiences.  It is set-up as a true-crime documentary, a found footage horror film, and a torture horror film.  The movie has some moments, but often it overplays its cards.

poughkeepsie tapes framed police officer

The 9-11-frame-up storyline was kind of interesting but felt like it should have been closer to the end

The story is told all in a retrospective nature.  You know that the killer was active.  You know he targeted specific victims, and you know he left tapes of his actions.  The film builds the story through interviews of people involved in the case and the exploration of the killer’s actions.  It somewhat focuses on one of the killer’s specific victims (Cheryl Dempsey played by Stacy Chbosky), but it largely is about multiple crimes before circling back to the Cheryl character.  It feels like it lacks a true vision for what the film is in a lot of ways (a true crime documentary would probably never show the footage that the film shows).

The film really was hindered by the performances.  I give the movie credit in that the characters aren’t supposed to be actors because they are supposed to be workers on the case.  Unfortunately, it feels like most of the performances are actors pretending to be “normal people”.  It doesn’t feel natural.  The movie doesn’t have much star power (intentionally).  Land of the Lost star Ron Harper plays a professor teaching about the case, but I do commend Stacy Chbosky’s end monologue as someone who has been psychologically broken and doesn’t know how to live as a free person.

poughkeepsie tapes serial killer costume

Now that’s creepy…and the movie needed more of this and less torture

The movie is a mix of “found footage” tapes and interviews.  The found footage is like many found footage films with often shaky camera work, but the movie does smooth it out a bit by having the killer trying to be more professional than the standard found footage shooting.  There are definitely some cringe-worthy moments throughout the film that are kind of tough to watch.

The Poughkeepsie Tapes though targeting a wide audience feels like a pretty specific niche.  It feels like the torture aspect is the “star” of the film because if you can’t watch the torture, you’re not going to make it through the true crime aspect.  It ends open ended, and I could see a sequel develop in the future since it has gotten a small fan base, and with the lack of stars (and a relatively unseen killer), the film doesn’t have to have any returning players.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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