The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007) Movie Review
Written By: TJ
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Director: John Erick Dowdle
Producers: Drew Dowdle
Writers: John Erick Dowdle, Drew Dowdle
Date Released: April 27, 2007
Stacy Chboski as Cheryl Dempsey
Ben Messmer as Ed
Ivar Brogger as Leonard Schway
Samantha Robson as Samantha
Iris Bahr as Aretha Creely
Ron Harper as Mike Moakes
Lou George as Felton Lewis
Bobbie Sue Luther as Josephine
Amy Lyndon as Alice Endrisart
Scott Beehner as Jason Ribling
Rating: 3/5 Graves
***May contain some spoilers***
In 2001, the town of Poughkeepsie in New York was shocked after police discovered 10 bodies buried in the backyard of a residential house. But that is just the beginning of the nightmare because when the police went inside the house, they found at least 800 tapes in an organized manner showing disturbing contents of crimes committed by a serial killer for a decade. Each crime was filmed from the first moments when the killer stalked his victims up to the victims last seconds alive, and that just brings unimaginable fear not only to the residents of the town, but also to the people investigating and tracking this particular unstable person’s records. After discovering these tapes, a terrifying surprise unvails itself when the police find the “missed” victim who was left alive by the killer, by the name of Cheryl Dempsey (Stacy Chboski). Soon after, the authorities realize that they are nowhere near identifying the despicable criminal even though they had a chance to interview Cheryl. What they do know, is that this serial killer, knows how to play his game really well.
The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007) is by far one film that was truly disturbing. I am not sure how many times I will use the word “disturbing” throughout this review but I am not going to keep track. This film takes on the realism factor in a very effective way. The found footage as displayed in the film was exceptionally convincing. The prosthetic, makeup, and even the execution of killings are impressive enough to provide us some gory fantasy. Although not outstanding, these elements make you forget that you’re watching a film and drags you unknowingly to a documentary and into the twisted mind of the killer. The most disturbing part for me, and it may not be as gory as you would assume, is the interview from Cheryl Dempsey after she was found in the killer’s house. She was deranged and everything she can say is “I don’t know, what do you want me to say?”. As brutal and horrifying as this film may be, the true frightening factor lies in the aftermath. As such, the film’s psychological effect on the viewer is where the disturbing elements come to fruition.
The Grave Review
After its failed release in Tribeca Film Festival in May 2007, The Poughkeepsie Tapes has vanished from Earth like nothing. It never had a proper publicity in cinemas or in theaters, and people weren’t aware of this film that’s been overshadowed by mainstream films. The Poughkeepsie Tapes, although not the greatest film, deserves more credit than it received.
Though in a tight budget, The Dowdle Brothers give us pure entertainment by creating a film with full grasp on realism and the found footage flick is one with the theme. Many found footage films today have a cinematic quality in them that leaves The Poughkeepsie Tapes attached to campiness and believability compares to the new movies of the same genre we see now. The director and writer played it well by following the most logical criteria when making such theme.
The story of Cheryl Dempsey is disturbing enough to stand on its own. But the production decides to emphasize it by providing interviews and clips from FBI and police authorities which gives us a firm trust on the facts presented in the movie. It was further elaborated through the dialogues written on the script. Cheryl’s story left a lot to the imagination as it progressed, and gives an unusual psychological depth to the killer’s character which is often missing in horror. Sometimes, it is scarier to think about things that you don’t see.
The characters may be the only heavily criticized element of this film. It was said that there were “too much acting” from our actors who showed exaggerated voices and body language. I can agree on this because most of the time in reality, people who are involved in cases like these tend to speak in a detached, matter-of-fact way as a natural tendency of reacting to such situations. In this way, some of the acting seemed unrealistic taking the surrounding circumstances of the film into consideration.
There are many loopholes that I’ve seen when I watched the film for the second time. That include the music background that you’ll hear when watching the supposed “found footages” and the dumb things the killer did like showing up to Cheryl’s mother amidst the investigation. These are things that have no logical reasoning but can only be noticed by a keen eye. Nevertheless, the movie is still entertaining compared to other films with such theme.
For the foregoing reasons, Grave Reviews gives The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007) three graves out of five graves.
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