31 Days of Our Favorite Horror Movies, Day 31

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The Poughkeepsie Tapes  (2007, dir. John Erick Dowdle)

This movie is a weird one. This is a movie that I remember reading about back in 2007, when it was making rounds at film festivals and seemingly had divided many in the film community. Some thought it to be utterly terrifying because of the nature and filming techniques used, and others found it to be derivative and boring. I vote on the side of terrifying. It is another entry into the genre of found footage, and yes, over the course of this listing, I have indeed listed many of my favorites as found footage movies.

I personally find the genre interesting because of the inherent “trust” that people seem to place in visual media, specifically video media. If it’s captured on tape, it must be true. I think that the case with this movie is that because of the different video artifacts like the jump cuts, static inserts, and blanched out color that could match the era-specific technology, the setting is all the more unsettling. The violence alone is off-putting at time, but some of the ways that the hidden killer talks to people on camera, often making up lies about why he is recording them, those conversations are just icky and sickening.

They are icky and sickening because we all know as viewers where the narrative will go – someone gon’ get carved up. And some of the killings are relatively brutal, but the most disturbing moments to me are the ones that seem to offer some sort of hope for the victim to escape. Oftentimes the killer will leave the room and keep recording, giving just a small enough window for someone to make a crucial decision of whether or not to attempt to escape or fight back. Those moments of any decision are few, but they’re powerful because it gives a glimmer of hope that if they might be able to escape or fight back, we as viewers just might have a chance the same way, were we ever in a similar horrific situation.

And I know that most of us dismiss these types of tropes in movies as, “oh, well I’ll never be dumb enough to get into a car if I needed a ride,” or “I’ll never pull over to help someone who I don’t know, let alone talk to strange people…” I get it. Mike has expressed his distaste for my penchant of talking to people who sidle up to me and begin talking to me out of the blue. He has a point, as my acceptance of conversation could be the beginning of a bad situation. Who knows?  And those moments of reality where things could go south really quickly are where the terror lies for me, simply because of the plausibility. Anything could happen to any of us at any moment. And who knows what type of sociopaths lurk among us.

The true horror that I find is that we never know what or who truly lurks behind a facade of everyday perceived normalcy.

And for some reason that I’m not quite sure about, this movie has yet to have an official home video release in any format, other than a VOD stint that is discontinued. I read rumors of issues of distribution and even concerns of copycats. Whatever the reason, it’s difficult to find, but not impossible. You just gotta look around and it might be right in front of you.

Happy Halloween!

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