Blu-Ray Review: The Poughkeepsie Tapes
Distributor: Scream Factory
Street Date: October 10th 2017
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio, DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Runtime: 86 Minutes
Originally filmed over a decade ago in 2007, The Poughkeepsie Tapes is a found footage entry in the genre that has become quite the sought after film in the Horror community over the years. MGM had originally slated the film for a theatrical release in 2008, only to be unceremoniously removed from their release slate without a proper explanation. Some time after in 2014 the film finally became available on video on demand, albeit for a brief time, and now we finally have a proper home video release from Scream Factory. But with all the hype and near mythical crusades to discover the film over the years…is it any good?
In The Poughkeepsie Tapes, New York State Police raid a serial killer’s house, and though they come up empty looking for their man, they uncover a sadistic trove of chronological video evidence of each and every one of his murder victims’ kidnapping, torture, and eventual death. All of this is told from a combination of footage from the tapes themselves and/or interviews with police and family members involved with the investigation. Though I won’t spoil specifics of the rest of the film, essentially, we’re left with the deeply uncomfortable experience of watching many of these faux “documentary” tapes depicting the psychotic killer’s encounters with his victims.
Those that know me know that I’m a classic Horror fan through and through. I’m that Universal Monster loving, Vincent Price admiring, Carrie and The Fog doting genre fan who never really understood nor was entertained by most modern Horror films (save for The Conjuring series and a handful of others). All too often I find that the over-the-top gore-torture and/or found footage of today’s cinema usually makes for some truly forgettable and ugly offerings that, for me personally, offer little re-watch value and suffer from a severe lack of substance and originality. The Poughkeepsie Tapes, though it’s not overly gory, falls in this same category.
In fact, it would seem that all the hype and mystery surrounding the film was merely due to the troubled release history more than anything related to the quality of the movie itself. The acting here is terrible, the writing amateurish, and the torture is cruel and downright nauseating in some scenes. The film’s “found footage” style is something we, as the audience, simply never buy into with the lackluster performances and unbelievable despair. Sadly, the major thing the Dowdle brothers forgot to include in this Horror entry is any real suspense or scares at all, offering up more of a simply uncomfortable viewing experience that makes me wonder why anyone would want to watch The Poughkeepsie Tapes at all. Now obviously, there’s an audience for this thing, as the “found footage” genre just doesn’t seem to disappear from the yearly cinematic offerings. To be fair, this particular film technically came before many of the similar films in the genre, so perhaps what would have been once unique and unsettling back in 2008 now seems simply tired and generic.
The Poughkeepsie Tapes arrives on Blu-Ray with a relatively clean and clear high definition image that, unlike the film itself, doesn’t bring any complaints from me! The found footage aspect looks purposely grainy, shaky, and distorted. The consistent distortion and tracking jumps add to the “effect” that we’re supposedly watching home video tapes. Keeping that in mind, this Blu-Ray edition looks exactly how it’s supposed to look for viewing on the format, and Scream Factory was able to obtain a solid print for use in high definition.
The included DTS-HD Mono track is another high point of this release with dialogue coming through clean and clear and stylistic background effects adding to the “creepy” factor of the film. A multi-channel effort would certainly have taken away from the “found footage” effect and concept, so the mono track is perfectly welcome and adequate.
Scream Factory has given fans of The Poughkeepsie Tapes a Blu-Ray release with a few interesting special features that are worth checking out if you’re a fan of the film. Here’s what’s included:
- Sorting through the Tapes- Cavetown Pictures offers up a 30+ minute interview with Writer/Director John Erick Dowdle and Writer/Producer Drew Dowdle. The brothers discuss how they got started in the business, their creative process, and the production behind The Poughkeepsie Tapes. Though I didn’t enjoy the film itself, the brothers are clearly passionate about their work and it’s interesting to hear about the creative process behind the making of the film.
- The Willing Victim- This 22+ minute interview with Actress Stacy Chbosky (wife of Director John Erick Dowdle) offers up some fun behind-the-scenes stories behind the audition process and the production itself from an actor’s standpoint. Stacy has a fun personality and clearly had a lot of fun making the film.
- Theatrical Trailer- The original theatrical trailer for the film from MGM.
This Blu-Ray release from Scream Factory features cover art highlighting the titular tapes along with the film’s tagline and title. This isn’t one of the label’s Collector’s Editions, so a slipcover is not offered with this release. The back of the case includes a brief plot synopsis, a list of bonus features, and technical specifications. Inside you’ll find the Blu-Ray disc and DVD version featuring some nice artwork showcasing various individuals featured on the titular tapes along with some background artwork visible on the rear cover art (not reversible).
As a classic Horror fan who finds the modern “found footage” genre of today’s cinema quite forgettable, The Poughkeepsie Tapes offers little re-watch value in my opinion and suffers from a severe lack of substance and originality. It would seem that much of the hype and mystery surrounding the film was merely due to the troubled release history more than anything related to the quality of the movie itself. To be fair, this particular film technically came before many of the similar films in the genre, so perhaps what would have been once unique and unsettling back in 2008 now seems simply tired and generic. With that being said, those of you that do appreciate the film will be happy to know that Scream Factory once again delivers the goods when it comes to a fine technical presentation on this Blu-Ray edition and some interesting bonus features for a film that many Horror fans were looking forward to finally seeing!