It’s unlikely that the causal horror moviegoer has seen The Poughkeepsie Tapes, or even heard of it for that matter. In a way, the story of this film’s disappearance is almost as interesting as the actual film itself. Originally advertised before screenings of The Mist in 2007, this found-footage/mockumentary never saw wide release and as of 2013 is still unavailable on DVD.
The Poughkeepsie Tapes is one part Blair Witch and one part Errol Morris. The film opens like a gritty crime documentary. The authorities of Poughkeepsie, New York have recently unraveled hundreds of tapes chronicling the murderous escapades of “The Poughkeepsie Killer”, a criminal mastermind and maniac who has videotaped every single person he’s ever captured and killed. Intercut with interviews and footage from the killer, The Poughkeepsie Tapes is a chillingly real story about the anger and fear that comes from an unsolved case that has hurt so many.
The Poughkeepsie Tapes never goes too far off the deep-end, always maintaing a sense of realism. All the actors in the film feel appropriate and the dialogue feels genuine. Had this film surfaced out of nowhere, say as a bunch of tapes in someone’s basement, you might even believe it was all true. It’s an interesting concept and surprisingly gripping. But what happened to the release of this film?
The Poughkeepsie Tapes was acquired by MGM after premiering at Tribeca Film Festival in 2007 and was slated for a wide release, until MGM took a tailspin into financial mucky muck. Thus, The Poughkeepsie Tapes was pulled 5 weeks before release (along with a few other MGM films). Yet even after recouping the studio hasn’t chosen to do anything with the film. They won’t sell it to other studios and wont release it themselves, so it’s in limbo. It’s a shame because had it been released just two years later it would have been a hit. Paranormal Activity in 2009 opened the door once again for found-footage movies to bring in blockbuster numbers and there’s no reason this film couldn’t have been one of the those blockbusters. Instead, this film is just as mysterious and elusive as the Poughkeepsie Tape Killer himself.