Plot: The serial killer known as the Water Street Butcher left countless dead bodies in his wake, but the authorities seemed to be helpless to end his reign of terror. The police knew this killer had murdered numerous victims, but even their higher estimates would prove to be far too low. After an innocent man was executed for the crimes, the police would eventually raid the killer’s home and discover an archive of hundreds of video tapes, well organized and labeled. These tapes would reveal the full scope of the Water Street Butcher’s dark deeds, endless hours of stalking, torture, rape, and brutal murders involving more than victims than they ever imagined. In this program, the case is examined through expert interviews and of course, footage taken from these horrific tapes, to shed light on this monstrous murderer.
Entertainment Value: This was a much talked about movie among horror fans, despite never being given a proper home video release until a decade after it was produced, which gave it a kind of “forbidden film” reputation. The movie intertwines faux documentary segments and found footage elements, which makes the film feel like an extended episode of some I.D. Network program. In truth, this could easily be mistaken for a cable true crime show, given the format and minimal gore/scares. If taken on that level, The Poughkeepsie Tapes works well, as it provides a mostly believable true crime program vibe, but as a horror movie, that is another tale. Even if you discount the “too extreme to be seen” reputation the film developed over the years, this is a very tame movie that has only a few scenes that go beyond what could be shown on cable, not exactly a shocking, haunting experience as some have claimed. A few scenes do have some genuine eerie, creepy atmosphere though, especially any of the times the killer interacts with kids. But we also have campy moments, usually related to the actors not being able to deliver a realistic performance, which is a common issue when it comes to found footage movies. I can’t make a strong recommendation for this one as a horror movie, but for fans of true crime, serial killers, or found footage, The Poughkeepsie Tapes has some interesting elements.
No nakedness. Given the descriptions of horrific sexual abuse and perversion, you might expect some sleaze, but that isn’t the case. Some mild bondage pops up in one scene, as well as a balloon popping fetish, but the sexual aspect of the crimes is glossed over and given minimal screen time. The blood quotient is low as well, with only a couple scenes that involve bloodshed. I know found footage movies are infamous for avoiding gore to save costs, but since this killer is hyped as this monster, you’d think the tapes would have included more violence. A well crafted neck slash is the highlight, while the only other scene with blood is less graphic, with just some trickles involved. I know horror doesn’t need gore to work, but it seems strange to have this supposedly sick, vile killer and show so little of why his crimes were so repugnant. But if you overlook the film’s reputation and go in expecting minimal violence, it shouldn’t be as jarring when it turns out to be pretty bloodless. The dialogue is a mix of poor acting that leads to awkwardness and a cringe level killer that provides some humor, so not all that memorable. The killer is such a dork, with some goofy lines that were likely meant to unnerve us, but come off as tryhard. No real craziness in this one, unless you count the humorous scene with a girl sitting on a balloon to arouse our killer. I wish this was an off the rails, insane ride, but sadly, it is more like an episode of Dateline.
Overall Insanity: 1/10