The Poughkeepsie Tapes (John Erick Dowdle, 2007)
[note: review originally published 1Dec2008]
Dowdle, who became much better-known in 2008 for directing Quarantine, is here represented with the film he directed before it, The Poughkeepsie Tapes. This is a mockumentary (though that word implies comedy) that begins with the discovery of hundreds of homemade snuff tapes in a small, unassuming house in Poughkeepsie. We watch state and federal detectives sifting through the footage trying to get some clues as to who the killer was (and, of course, see some footage in the process), but the longer the cops go without getting anywhere, the more they find that watching hours and hours of this footage, sometimes over and over again, is having effects on them.
The horror mockumentary has experienced quite a surge in popularity since the twin explosions that were The Last Broadcast and The Blair Witch Project a decade ago. None of them, unfortunately, have been as inventive as the former or as visceral as the latter, and The Poughkeepsie Tapes is included in that count. While there are glimmers of the directorial style that made Quarantine one of the better recent horror remakes (one has to remember that he was, essentially, piggybacking on Jaume Balaguero’s original style, given the faithfulness Dowdle brought to the project), there’s nothing here that makes this different from most of the other horror mockumentaries that have cropped up recently. It is interesting to note that the handicam-style camerawork we’ve gotten so used to seeing (and that some directors have recently made into an art in movies like Cloverfield and, yes, [REC], the film upon which Quarantine was based) is represented here in the killer’s tapes; shades of Dowdle’s more recent work? Still, it’s not a bad example of the genre if you’ve got an hour and a half to kill. There are certainly worse examples out there. ***