Here we are again! The first film of my #31DaysofHorror 2019 is…. The Poughkeepsie Tapes. I admit that I am partial to a little bit of the much maligned sub-genre of found footage, if it is done inventively or just really well. Otherwise it can be pretty rubbish.
So, how well did The Poughkeepsie Tapes do? Let’s find out!
First off, The Poughkeepsie Tapes is mainly done in the style of a TV movie, interjecting present day interviews with the actual “found footage”, in this case a hoard of hundreds and hundreds of video tapes recovered from a suspected crime scene. Fleshing out the story with the interviews, in a similar style to the incredibly popular series Making of a Murderer, with those people involved in the investigations into this mysterious and prolific serial murderer/torturer is a good way to give the story more background and sense of place. However, for me one of the pure joys of the found footage genre is the whole “what the fuck is going on here?”, the having to try to piece together the mystery as it unfolds in front of you. Here, though, there is a larger element of spoon-feeding the viewer, spelling it all out for you rather than you having to discover what has gone on.
And, as with a low-budget TV movie, it lacks the realism and authenticity that usually accompanies found footage style films. Due to the more polished (but still tacky) style of the interviews footage interspersing the actual found footage, it makes it all feel very 1980s at times and not very natural at all, removing that fear and worry that this could actually be real footage (which is surely the main point of one of these style films?).
When the tape footage does get shown, it is often hard to work out what is happening at times due to the incredibly poor quality of the video tape footage, but to give it some credit when it does come through there are some really disturbing moments amongst a lot of other melodramatic moments of over-the-top depictions of mental instability. There is a lot of violence directed towards women shown in the footage, even though this suspect doesn’t appear to be too fussy about who they are attacking., revelling at times in the domination and humiliation of his chosen captives.
Finally, to top it all off, the open ending was a bit of a let down. If it was just the footage that we got, it would make more sense to leave the audience hanging but as we have the wrap-around investigation it should have had a tighter conclusion. Instead it just peters out.