Sunday, October 25, 2009

you've been framed.

As unusual as it may seem I've actually found myself watching some halfway decent films for a change these last few weeks.

Well, I say halfway decent...

The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007).
Dir: John Erick Dowdle.
Cast: Stacy Chbosky, Ben Messmer, Samantha Robson, Ivar Brogger (I bet he has), Lou George and a load of other folk you'll probably never see again.

Do you remember the story of the infamous American serial killer the Water Street Butcher?


Well maybe this will jog your memory.

The Butcher (or Pat as his friends called him) terrorized Poughkeepsie (that's in New Yoik geography fans) for over a decade beginning in the early 90's (gah....remember them?) and was eventually traced to a rented home after what the FBI thought were a series of minor slip ups on his part.

Never the type of folk to do things by half (just asked David Kuresh), the bureau aided by several dozen SWAT teams, three helicopters and an ice cream van stormed the house only to find a cupboard full of VHS tapes, a girl in a gimp mask hidden in a table and the killer long gone.

On closer inspection the Poughkeepsie tapes (as they come to be known) are found to contain contain the entire history of the killers reign of terror.

But not unfortunately the long lost final episode of classic Doctor Who story The Tenth Planet.

Luckily for us, director Dowdle has been given unlimited access to these tapes and all the major players, from police to parents, involved in the case enabling him to create a chilling look at the career of America's most prolific killer.

The idiot's guide to how to lose your child:
Tapas and Calpol not supplied.

And my word what a career it was, from changing his M.O. at random intervals to throw the authorities off his trail to dressing up like 80's Brit teevee terror Mr. Nosybonk to frighten his victims and locking his victims in cupboards after forcing them to wear rubber Barbie masks and French maids outfits, Pat was always one step ahead of both the police, the FBI and most importantly those self appointed Czars of fashion.

Tho' to be honest he had to be good at something as to make up for his frankly appalling camera skills.

I mean, I've seen better shot drunken home-made porn (my childhood has left me very scarred).

Between random snatches (oooeeerr) of tape and numerous monosyllabic talking heads (don't get frightened, they all have bodies attached - and judging by the lack of emoting from some of the interviewee's - poles rammed right up their arses) we learn how Pat began his life of badness by abducting wee girls out of their gardens before graduating to kidnapping and torturing plainly dressed couples before finally setting himself up as a slayer of whores and sneakily framing a policeman (by using of a stolen tub of semen and a plan far too complicated to go into here) for his crimes.

The rotter.

Well, he would be a rotter if any of it were real.

Yup, The Poughkeepsie Tapes is another in that long line of horror mockumentaries that began with Cannibal Holocaust (and was reborn with The Blair Witch Project) and continues to this day with the release of Paranormal Activity, the movie was hyped to hell back in 2007 before dropping off the radar completely and disappearing quicker than a child on a Portuguese holiday.


He might be all smiles now but
just wait till the fucking starts.

It was only by chance that I came across the screener of this sitting on my shelf (just behind those classic Mexican mad mentalist movies Vacation of Terror 1 and 2) after it'd been quietly gathering dust now for about 18 months and intrigued partly by the original hype surrounding it but mainly to see why it had been forgotten about so completely, I decided to give it a go.

And surprisingly it's not half bad.

Dowdle , who later went on to direct the American Remake of [Rec], the so-so Quarantine
(nobodies perfect) does a top job of making the killer's VHS footage look uncomfortably real (maybe too real, I can't imagine the pixel-lated, scratchy nth generation copies transferring to a cinema screen) whilst the script references such real life events as the John Wayne Gacy trial and the September 11th attacks adding an air of 'could be' reality to the whole affair, hopefully freaking out most of middle America along the way and inducing severe migraines in the rest.

The result veers wildly between being a skin crawlingly uncomfortable experience and an arse numbingly boring one depending who's on screen at any given time, whilst there are a few convincing performances from the movies cast the majority of the actors involved appeared to be construct entirely from MDF board and if you concentrate enough you can actually see the woodworm slowly crawling up the actors faces.

Now there are a couple of mooth's made
for shite-in in if ever I saw some.

A special mention must go to the FBI man who, when talking about the time his missis accidentally viewed one of the tapes after mistaking it for that weeks Sunset Beach omnibus said this of her reaction:

"it was over a year before my wife let me touch her again".

Quality (if oh so slightly snigger inducing) stuff.

Naomi Watts, up the casino, 1997....Yesch!

But for every crap commentary there's a scene that is so bizarre and unflinchingly vile that it demands your attention.

The grainy footage of an unfortunate woman hogtied like a plumb and sweaty turkey and the almost unwatchable (in a good way obviously) scene where pervy Pat invites the teenie, cookie selling Girl Scouts into his house are just two that come to mind.

In that instant you have no idea where Dowdle is planning on taking the film.

Or the viewer.

And there's precious little of that in modern cinema.



David Koresh was killed by the ATF, not the FBI, just saying.

Ashton Lamont said...

I'll take your word for it, I wasn't there.