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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Poughkeepsie Tapes (Blu-ray)
The Poughkeepsie Tapes (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory // R // October 10, 2017 // Region A
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted October 7, 2017 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Directed by John Erick Dowdle who co-wrote with his brother Drew, 2007's The Poughkeepsie Tapes was to be distributed by MGM but for some reason that never happened. It saw a limited VOD release in 2014 but hasn't been until now that the movie has been given a proper home video release.

The film posits itself as a documentary that examines a serial killer active through the 1990s as her operates in and around Poughkeepsie, New York and parts of Pennsylvania. The killer, Ed Carver (Ben Messmer), videotaped pretty much all of his exploits and when the documentary begins we learn that there was over 2400 hours of footage. As we hear from F.B.I. agents, police, victim's family members and other people related to the case, we cut back and forth from these interviews to footage from the tapes that the F.B.I. recovered.

We first see Carver abduct an eight year old girl off of the front lawn of her family home and later learn that he raped her. This is a recurring theme throughout the movie, often times with some necrophilia thrown in for good measure. From there, he poses as a stranded motorist only to take out the couple that was kind enough to help him. The man is killed, the women is given a c-section, her husband's head placed inside her stomach. It gets worse from there as he then kidnaps Cheryl Dempsey (Stacy Chbosky) after breaking into her home and brutally killing her boyfriend. He keeps Cheryl alive and plays mind games with her, turning her into a slave that only exists to please her master. As the authorities start closing in on Carver, he changes tactics so that he can continue his twisted game.

There's one issue with this movie that might bug some more than others: the tapes that the F.B.I. recovered? Anytime we cut to that footage there's a loud short blast of white noise before the footage plays and when it does, it's framed at 1.78.1 and clearly shot on DV. The filmmakers have degraded the picture, added some video noise and some tape roll and toyed around with the colors, but for those who remember consumer grade VHS quality, it'll be pretty obvious that this is not what we're seeing here. Aside from that technical issue, however, the movie is really pretty well done. The news cast footage seems almost legitimate, the movie is quite well edited and it feels like a real documentary most of the time and the pacing is pretty solid.

The performances are also quite good. There are a few spots where Messmer comes close to going over the top in his more manic scenes, but then, these are manic scenes, so it makes sense in the context of character he's playing. Stacy Chbosky is pretty believable here too, playing a truly sympathetic character and bringing a genuine sense of pathos to Cheryl.

The Blu-ray

Video:

The Poughkeepsie Tapes arrives on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. The ‘documentary' footage shot for the movie looks nice and detailed, it shows good color reproduction and solid black levels and it generally looks just fine. The found footage aspect of the film, made to look like older VHS tapes, is intentionally degraded for that reason. So here the picture wobbles and a bit and goes soft, colors fade in and out, etc.. It works in the context of the story behind told, however. The authoring is fine, there are no problems with any compression artifacts or edge enhancement to note.

Sound:

The only audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. No issues here, the audio is clean, clear, crisp and well balanced. Again, some of the ‘found footage' has been intentionally degraded for artistic effect so it's obviously less than perfect but there are no problems here.

Extras:

Extras kick off with a new interview featuring writer/director John Erick Dowdle and writer/producer Drew Dowdle. They talk about how they got into filmmaking, how did what behind the camera (they shared a lot of duties), their writing process, where some of the inspiration for the feature came from and more. Shout! Factory has also included an interview with actress Stacy Chbosky who speaks about her experiences on set, her relationship with the Dowdle brothers (she's married to John Erick), her thoughts on the characters she plays and on the feature itself as well as a fair bit more.

Outside of that there's a theatrical trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection. As this is a combo pack release a DVD version of the movie is also included.

Final Thoughts:

The Poughkeepsie Tapes is now finally available in a proper home video release thanks to Shout! Factory. The movie looks and sounds quite good and the interviews are both interesting and worthwhile. As to the movie itself? It's quite well done despite a few issues

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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