Friday, October 14, 2016
COUNTDOWN TO HALLOWEEN #14: TWO EXCRUCIATING HORROR GENRES RESULT IN ONE SURPRISINGLY EFFECTIVE FILM
There are two Horror genres that I don't have time for anymore. The first is Found Footage. While it can be effective, the end results tend to be repetitive and terrible. The same cliches are always in play, and as a result you get a predictable film in a genre that is most effective when it is unpredictable.
The second genre is Snuff Porn. These are Horror movies that only exist to show torture and death. I feel like the Saw films fall into this category because they get their kicks by showing people in hopeless situations where they have to sit and watch as their demise arrives in a Rube Goldberg fashion. Stupid. The Hostel movies are most definitely Snuff Porn. They literally depict snuff. I mean, they don't LITERALLY show murders, but the whole point is that people pay to murder and torture people. The world is a hard enough place without being reminded of how cheap life can be in this world.
In 2007 I started seeing trailers for a film that combined these two genres. The movie was The Poughkeepsie Tapes, and the premise was that investigators found hundreds of video tapes depicting the murders and crimes committed by a serial killer in Poughkeepsie, New York. Here's the trailer:
So what we have is the found footage of the killer's recorded crimes, and as a result that footage is Snuff Porn. While I might have been intrigued a Found Footage film, despite my growing distaste, I had no interest in the Snuff Porn side of things. My gut instinct was proven right when the movie was screened Butt Numbathon in Austin, Texas, in 2007. The filmmakers presented the movie as if it was a real documentary, and the audience reacted poorly to the attempted ruse. It got things off on the wrong foot and the crowd actively HATED the film. The crew that made it snuck out the back without doing their Q&A.
It was a stupid idea to try and market a film as depicting actual murder. As twisted as the world is, and even though people would probably pay to see it, there was no way an audience of hardcore film geeks was going to play along like idiots. The reaction that the movie got that night in Texas tarnished the reputation of the film before it had a chance for release, and it sat on the shelf without even a home video release.
I had written the film off as a distillation of all the things I actively disliked about horror, until the film came up about a year ago in conversation with a co-worker. She asked if I had seen The Poughkeepsie Tapes, and I said no because I had no interest in seeing Snuff Porn and also because it hadn't been released. She said that the movie was actually available on YouTube, and that it was a genuinely creepy movie. I hemmed and hawed, but she wore me down until I finally agreed to give it a chance.
The film was exactly what I expected it to be, except for one thing: I actually enjoyed it. It's a genuinely creepy movie, and the found footage aspect of it really enhances the disturbing nature of the story. The acting was good enough that I didn't feel like I was watching someone trying to act natural, and the production quality was great for this kind of film.
Some people around the time of that ill fated Texas screening felt that the movie was a parody of found footage. Sort of like a This Is Spinal Tap of torture. I don't see how they can get that, because I didn't find anything in it to be particularly funny, and I didn't get the sense that there was any attempt at parody, but maybe that's because Found Footage has already self parodied itself into the ground. The Poughkeepsie Tapes seems to be an attempt at a legitimately scary film.
The Poughkeepsie Tapes briefly escaped into the world as a Video-On-Demand release in 2014, but only to Direct TV subscribers until it was suddenly pulled. One reason given for the removal was that MGM apparently wanted to finally give it a theatrical release. Here we are, two years later, and the film has yet to resurface.
You can find it on YouTube, but in a version tampered with to prevent it being detected and taken down. I did, however, find it lurking around on what appears to be a Russian website, and the quality is better, at least it is if you can put up with the subtitles. Enjoy or don't!
WARNING: This film is graphic and disturbing.