Sunday, February 10, 2013

Self Observational Sunday - Going Down to Poughkeepsie and Meet some Tapes of Mine

About a month ago a friend lent me a bootleg of The Poughkeepsie Tapes. While I usually don’t support bootlegging (my family however is all about having the latest theatrical release on a shitty grainy DVD) I see it being quite important/useful in cases of the rare/never to be seen-again field. Websites like VHSPS help us get those horror films and 80’s comedies that have yet (and probably will never) had a proper DVD release. Thanks to them instead of spending $150 + on an out of print copy of Fright Night 2 or Fade to Black I only had to pay $10 plus shipping and handling. Is the picture perfect? Fuck no. It’s a VHS transfer (with the original movie trailers at the beginning) but it’s better than nothing. It’s also through bootlegs that I was finally able to see such movies/TV specials they want you to forget like The Star Wars Christmas Special and Bates Motel (a terrible TV Show Pilot/TV Movie starring Bud Cort based on the infamous Psycho Motel). And thanks to bootlegging I was able to finally see The Poughkeepsie Tapes.

I guess saying “finally see” is a bit misleading. While I heard the title mentioned on some message boards and the horror subreddit I really didn’t know much about it until my friend mentioned it to me. I did a little research (while trying to avoid plot details). It seems that the film came out circa 2007, played a few festivals, had a decent response (enough for word of mouth to spread anyway) and then … the end? The film never got a distributor and despite a mild cult following and word of mouth there seems to be zero plans of ever releasing it. I was curious what I was about to see.

Poughkeepsie Tapes is hardly anything ground breaking. It’s like a weird mutant child of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Saw and Cannibal Holocaust. We have a mockumentary (although that word doesn’t properly apply since there’s no comedy its simply a fake documentary) about an extremely busy, violent and uncatchable serial killer who plagued Poughkeepsie, NY and other surround cities. What kept me entangled into the story was the multi-layers of torture and despicableness that our serial killer stoops to. His rein of terror kicks off with the kidnapping and murdering of a small girl and builds from there. Some of these attacks are borderline impossible but that’s part of the fun/mystic of it. It’s not like the film never pretends it’s not a movie (the closing credits don’t just list everyone with “______ as herself” or anything) so there’s no reason to not enjoy it as a piece of entertainment.

The acting isn’t the greatest, in fact at points it’s plain bad. As I said earlier the attacks are most are unrealistic at best but regardless of that a month after watching it… I can’t stop thinking about it. I’ve yet to revisit it. Part of me really wants to while another part of me fears disappointment the second time around; I mean to be honest there was disappointment the first time around… but much like when I watched Pink Flamingos for the first time it attached itself to my brain like a tumor.

The first time I ever saw Pink Flamingos was early in my Netflix career. When I first signed up for Netflix the appeal was getting movies that I’d never find at Blockbuster and had heard about for years. This means that Pink Flamingos was probably one of the first 5 movies I got on Netflix. I remember the excitement of watching it, followed by disgust, followed by utter disappointment by the closing credits. I couldn’t throw that DVD into the return envelope fast enough. I sealed it up and throw it in the mailbox. The following night I was hanging out with a good friend and talking about the movie and as I talked and talked I realized something. I desperately wanted to watch the movie again. Since the mailman had already taken the Netflix back I went onto Amazon and bought myself the DVD.

I began watching it repeatedly, memorizing lines, showing it friends and even bringing it to parties (where it was eventually turned off). Now the movie is easily one of my favorite films of all time. I realize that makes me sound like a sick bastard (much like my love of Joel Reed’s Bloodsucking Freaks that I touched on last week) but there was this weird ‘dangerous’ appeal to Pink Flamingos. That is also the appeal for Poughkeepsie Tapes. While I doubt this will be a film I’d ever watch obsessively and bring to parties it does have a danger factor. And that danger factor is that you can only see it as a bootleg.

Much like the Video Nastys of the 80’s and 90s the fact that you can’t legally acquire has given the film an extra level of ‘danger’. Perhaps the reason the Wikipedia page states “it has not be released on DVD and there are no plans to do so”. It definitely adds a nice ‘you aren’t allowed to see this’ factor to it all doesn’t it?

This is the downside of internet piracy for me. These rare gems are too easy to find these days. If I want see something a quick look at piratebay or even youtube and I have it. I miss the hunt. Even though my friend and I could have watched this movie in youtube… there was something far more exciting about tracking down your own personal copy to put on a DVD shelf. Kudos to the people behind Poughkeepsie Tapes for at least trying to keep a feeling of forbidden fruit in horror. While the film doesn’t work on every level it’s supposed to, you are able to look past bad acting and buy into the story because after having to search all over to acquire a copy it doesn’t feel like a movie anymore, it feels like a secret document.

Fuck it, I think I will rewatch it. Maybe.

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