Posts Tagged ‘killer

05
Apr
09

Dead Snow: The Next Great Zombie Film

The Next big thing in Undead Cinema.

The Next big thing in Undead Cinema.

For those of you who may not know, I have a serious love for anything involving the use of zombies or the undead.  From movies to video games to literature, I am fascinated by how versatile they are in any storytelling medium.  So imagine how excited I was when I first heard about a foreign zombie flick, taking place in the snowy mountains, that feature…(drum roll please)…Nazi Zombies.

Oh yes kids, it’s true.  And you know what is even better?  It is a superb horror flick.

Now, a little history.  There have been some exploitation style movies, back in the 60’s, 70’s and I think even up until the 80’s, that have tackled the idea of having undead nazi soldiers, but most were completely and utterly terrible.  I’m not talking “funny Ha-Ha get drunk with your friends and watch it” terrible.  I’m talking bad to the point of nausea.  For evidence of this, please see (read: download illegally for free) Zombie Lake. /End history lesson.

But enough wasted time establishing the immense uphill battle that Dead Snow faced, and let’s get on with the review.  The plot of Dead snow is a simple one, but simple doesn’t imply that it isn’t well utilized and perfectly solid.  Some 20 somethings are going on vacation, and decide to go up to a cabin in the snowy mountain woods.  The “old crazy story teller guy” warns them of some old wives tale about soldiers who died in these woods surrounding the cabin.  Of course, our 20 somethings, including a great “movie geek guy”, cast him off as a crazy local, and shortly there after, all hell breaks lose in the form, you guessed it, Nazi Zombies.

Fantastic make up on the Nazi Zombies

Fantastic make up on the Nazi Zombies

The magic of Dead Snow isn’t it’s plot though, it’s in the characters and the fantastically rewarding pace.  The group of friends aren’t typical zombie fodder, there isn’t a clear cut stereotypical “slut”, nor is there the guy who is hopelessly in love with a girl he can never get, and there isn’t a clear “dick” character, who is rude and crass but painfully funny and accurate in his social observations.  Instead, everyone character feels a bit more three-dimensional, they all seem to have a good, general sense of wit, and while they each have unique personality traits, like a knack for humor or a knowledge of movies, they come on as more than just TV sitcom characters who are helping to strengthen rigid stereotyping.  Also, characters evolve, something rarely seen in horror today.

The pace is the second most important piece to the Dead Snow puzzle.  From the opening scene, we are treated to classical music as a Jane Doe gets hunted down by our ruthless zombies at night.  This is a great way to introduce people to the movie antagonists without spoiling there appearance, and combining it with a classic misdirection “boo” scare makes it all the more fun.  There is no notion that in order to create good characters, that we the audience can relate to and invest in, we have to stare at them doing mundane things for 45 minutes.  Dead Snow introduces everyone quickly, letting you adapt to their personal behavior and traits on the fly, all the while keeping the tension high by inventing some new and resurrecting some old classic boo scares.  And when the well dries up on tension and suspense, the movie goes into absolute overdrive, providing the kind of kick ass orgy of violence only true horror can deliver.

Sometimes, you just gotta fight back the undead horde with garden tools.

Sometimes, you just gotta fight back the undead horde with garden tools.

The last thing I would like to touch on is the special effects.  Minimal CGI means that lots of fake blood, limbs, and intestines get strewn all over the place, and the choreographing of the fight scenes is so tight and visceral, that it really helps bring you into the struggle.  It’s a scrappy, survivor type of fighting, nothing fancy or cool about it.  It’s a nice contrast to the modern day practice  of ridiculously complicated and illogical battles between good and evil in horror movies, when instead you would just be reduced to dirty tactics and savagery in the case you were ever attacked by the undead.

So, in the interest of keeping this one short and sweet (just how I like my women) I will wrap this up by saying that Dead Snow has all the earmarks of the next big independent horror film, especially in the flooded sub-division of Zombie films.  It shows an intimate knowledge and respect of its’ ancestors, most notably Raimi and Romero, but it also comes packing a slew of original ideas, as well as innovative implementations of standard tricks of the horror movie trade.   It is  unpredictable, direct, funny, unapologetic, and wholly satisfying.

It is at this point in time where you should be googling your ass off trying to find this flick.

BRAINS!!!!!!!!!!

BRAINS!!!!!!!!!!

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06
Mar
09

The Punisher: War Zone Review

He is all out of bubblegum.

He is all out of bubblegum.

2008 was, without a doubt, the year of the comic book movie.  Along side the earth shattering success of The Dark Knight, there was the surprisingly impressive Hulk movie, and the Robert Downey Jr. resurrection machine known as Iron Man.  Both turned out to be great movies in their own right, with the Hulk finally getting the balance between the rage fueled violence and the plight of the scientist with a curse right, and with Iron Man, where Downey Jr. literally transformed himself into a living, breathing Tony Stark.

So then why didn’t anyone pay any attention to Punisher War Zone?  Maybe it was because the 2004 entry was almost universally panned for being quite atrocious.  Maybe because it didn’t have anywhere near the hype and media coverage that the big three got.  Maybe because it’s R rated (and let me tell you, its earns ALL of that R rating and then some).  Maybe it’s because the plot concerning an ex-military mans family being slaughtered because they witnessed a mob killing is just to grim for most audiences.  Whatever the reason, it’s truly a damn shame, because against what seemed like all odds, the old adage of “third times a charm” came shining through, and Frank Castle finally get his long overdue opus on the silver screen.

The Punisher to me, always seemed like the safest and easiest bet of all the Marvel heroes to turn into a feature film.  There’s no expensive CGI and complicated suits to create.  There’s no interplanetary or ridiculously complex scientific origin to the hero.  His appearance is just that of a middle-aged tired and emotionally distraught Italian male.  And he actually doesn’t even has superpowers, his is just an incredibly driven, superlatively trained warrior who occupies the gray area in between the good and evil of society.  Aside from some more intimate and provoking undertones that go on within The Punishers own conscious, his main method of entertaining comic books fans was plowing his way as violently as possible through droves of street thugs, gangsters, and criminals.  It’s at about this time your probably recognizing how male orientated this comic series was.  It seems like every male action junkies fantasy, to be this near suicidal, empty shell of a man who can just kill with absolute impunity.  Yet, in a strange twist, it took a woman to get this story right.

The Punisher can kill a man with a chair.  That's hardcore.

The Punisher can kill a man with a chair. That's hardcore.

Director Lexi Alexanders’ command of the visual style and pacing of this movie is probably the most immediate and impressive of the taunting hurdles she had to overcome to create such an exceptionally accurate representation of The Punisher as it is presented in the comics.  The Punisher is a man of action, a man of finality, in his world there are three colors, Black (evil), White (good), and Red (Blood and Justice).  Lexi encapsulates that beautifully, knowing exactly when to allow the story play out a bit, and maybe let the characters get a little introspective, and when to crank it up to 11 by unleashing the Punisher without any hesitation or restriction.  Combining those strengths, with a keen eye for lighting, to give everything  that grimy, almost mafia look, and some dynamite performances and well thought out actions set pieces and you have a recipe for success.

But while Lexi may have created quite the landscape for a vigilante superhero with an uncanny talent for dealing death, it would be nothing if there weren’t solid actors to bring the persona’s off the pages of the comics.  Everyone, let me introduce to Ray Stevenson.  This guy is a presence on screen, I liken him to Gerald Butler, who completely stole the show in every scene he was in in 300.  His somber and weathered face and flat voice was a perfect fit for bringing to life the near emotionless Frank Castle.  He wasn’t just a revelation because he accurately portrayed a comic book character, he was a revelation because he acted his fucking ass off, and bridged the gap between inflated, comically quirky superheroes, and three-dimensional characters who seem to live and breath in an incredibly believable manner.

Jigsaw.

Jigsaw.

Surrounding him is a ensemble cast that includes Julie Benz (RAMBO, Dexter TV show), Dominic West (The Wire TV show), and Wayne Knight (Seinfeld and Jurassic Park).  They all fit the bill perfectly, and bring the kind of subtle, validating emotions to the screen, while still being incredibly fun to marvel (pun intended) at due to their fan service nature and faithful reproduction on screen.

Technically speaking, the audio is superb, with the score being allowed to creep into the forefront at just the right moments to give more emotional resonance and weight to a particular scene.  Also, every gunshot, shell casing, bullet wound, lost limb, and blown up body is accounted for, with satisfyingly loud, deep, and visceral sound effects.  As previously mentioned, the lighting is a perfect blend of realistic city environments, and heavily stylized colorful comic book cities.  The camera also always seems to be in the right place, never wearing out its welcome by using too many gimmicks or by sitting around like a seemingly uninterested bystander.  It moves with the pace of the action, and always gives a great glimpse of what is happening.

Heavy Handed for those uninitiated in Punisher lore, but this is as fitting a message to go out on as any.

Heavy Handed for those uninitiated in Punisher lore, but this is as fitting a message to go out on as any.

The Punisher, is my humble opinion, is better than the Hulk movie, and right up there with Iron Man as far as 2008 comic book movies are concerned, with the The Dark Knight being the obvious number 1.   This is an incredibly faithful, stunningly grisly, and frighteningly accurate depiction of everything that is great about the character Marvel fans seem to forget about the most in The Punisher.  The acting is simply spot on, only once or twice spilling into hammy territory.  The look and feel is wonderful without being overbearing.  It sounds like a dream John Woo had, and it moves quickly, avoiding all those slippery little chasms where character exposition and plot development can lead to mind-numbing boredom and frustration.

The birth of the alternative comic book movie is upon us, and I for one am eagerly awaiting whats next.

Get out of my way, punk.

Get out of my way, punk

05
Mar
09

INK: The movie you haven’t heard about and can’t afford not to.

Movies come and movies go, for the most part.  We may see an awesome trailer, an awesome movie, tell all our friends about it, say it’s your favorite movie the season, month, year or all time, but usually, once the next big thing comes along, we forget about what we loved yesterday, and feverishly care about whats coming next.  Sometimes though, movies come along, and either with a bang or a whisper, they shape what’s next through innovation and imagination.

So, without further delay, here’s what’s next.

Having spoken with the Director, Writer, Editor, and music composer Jamin Winans, I can tell you that this movie is coming from the heart and soul of a true fellow movie geek, and if The Wachowski Brothers, the Coens, Zack Snyder, and a slew of other directors have taught us anything, it’s that the underdogs are shaping where this industry is headed next, and that the money, respect, and credulity is coming mostly from those personally in touch with the fans from their experience of being a fan.

We all know the Watchmen is coming out, as well as the other big budget movies like G.I. Joe and Transformers.  But take a minute to check this little flick out, because you’ll probably see its style, among other things, duplicated for years to come.
And for good measure, a very slick short he made.




12
Feb
09

Friday the 13th: A Midnight Showing Fanboy Retrospective

Curse or Creative Genius?  We'll soon find out how well the Marquee player from the slasher genre holds up in modern day.

Curse or Creative Genius? We'll soon find out how well the Marquee player from the slasher genre holds up in modern day.

Good day to you, fellow Midnighters, and welcome to my first ever Retrospective piece here for Midnight Showing.  I want to handle this a little differently than most “retrospective” pieces I see on the Internet.  Instead of simply trying to impress you with my harmfully encyclopedic knowledge of this series and it’s many quirks and idiosyncrasies, I want to take a look at it from a relatively spoiler free perspective of a fan who is analyzing the overall impact of such a lucrative and beloved,  yet heavily criticized series that’s bread and butter was the apparent exploitation of sinful teenagers who just so happened to be fucking around with the wrong psychopathic serial killer.

And what a wonderful place to start.  The Friday the 13th series (which I will refer to as F13 for the rest of this piece since it’s much shorter and easier to type!) has become a source of ridicule and comparison.  Whenever a movie series begins to take a turn for the worst while cranking out sequels, everyone seems to jump to equate that failure, with the failure that was the endless stream of entries into multiple horror franchises in the 80’s.  Also, people in general (people in general meaning not fan-boys and horror geeks) seem to feel the movies have absolutely no value or merit, and serve only to fulfill a misogynistic, predatory sexual desire only experienced by guys usually aged 14 to 35.

The funny thing is, now a days dressing like a homeless manical serial killer is kind of an "in" look.

The funny thing is, now a days dressing like a homeless manical serial killer is kind of an "in" look.

For those who feel this way, do me a favor.  Got to your local movie theater on Thursday the 12 of February of 2009.  Get there about 11 o’ clock.  Stand in the parking lot, and see how many people go up to the ticket window and buy tickets to see F13.  Note how many of them are women.  You will then be prompted to SHUT THE FUCK UP by me.  The notion that F13 is some kind of soft-core porn for men who have trouble with women, is an asinine, paranoid delusion created largely in part by ultra-sensitive people with too much free time.  They claim its to protect their innocent children (who undoubtedly have porn underneath there bed mom doesn’t know about) from on-screen violence and the temptation of sex and drugs.  The irony of course, is that even back then in the 80’s and especially in today’s media, we glorify and report on death, rape, famine, disease, torture, executions and everything else that’s horrible and desensitizing.  Apparently, by many folks sense of logic, real death and other horrible acts of humanity are perfectly acceptable to be reported 24/7 on the news, but if we perhaps want to get scared a little, in a safe and communal environment such as  a movie theater and watch some dumbfounded teenagers fuck, do drugs, and get ripped to shreds by a masked iconic serial killer, to whom we relate to more than those dying on the news, we are bad people.  Apparently a lot of people who criticize the already marginalized horror genre don’t own any mirrors in their houses.

But before I dig any deeper into the messy pit that is morals and standards, let’s explore the soul of the series a bit.  F13 (the original) is actually more of a cautionary tale than anything else, it’s just told in such a where were relatively innocent teenagers (Hey, they smoked pot and had sex, so of course they are a little guilty) are brutally slain.  For those who haven’t seen the original F13, what I’m about to say will be a major spoiler, so now would be a good time to scroll down to the next paragraph or watch the goddamn movie, since it is still quite good.  The mother of Jason Voorhees is in fact the killer throughout the entire first film.  Although since you never see her, you just assume it’s Jason taking revenge for the negligence of the camp counselors who let him drown.  This twist should intrigue anyone looking to see the remake, as Jason is clearly visible in the trailers and commercials, yet it’s widely known he didn’t start his body count until Part 2.

Marijuana

Marijuana

+

sex

sex

=

Equals Death.

Equals Death.

So if F13 isn’t just useless trash spit out into the cinematic world by perverts, than what is it really?  Surely, it’s still a horror film, with the fact of whether or not it is actually scary still being hotly debated.  What I never hear in conjunction with F13 conversation and retrospectives is the fact that F13 was a movie made in a completely different time and social climate than the one we are currently in.  In the 80’s Reagan was president and he and his wife were trying desperately to clean up the world many saw as full of filth and sin.  The world’s major threats were Russians, not low-tech religious fanatics hiding in a cave in a desert of a 3rd world country.  Aids popped up, and subsequently scared the shit out of almost everyone.  All these factors, and about a million more, made the perfect breeding ground for escapism theater, a brand of movies that weren’t all based on history or current events, or even reality for that matter.  Even though F13 takes place at a very earthly and mundane looking summer camp, the idea that a undead, superhuman monster of a man, who seems fully grown by the time he makes his triumphant entrance in Part 2, can rise from the dead again and again to exact his bloody revenge against really anyone who gets in his way is quite out of the realm of possibility.

Why So Hockey?

Why So Hockey?

But it’s just that “unreal events in a familiar setting” that gets people all worked up.  Proper horror is all about taking something you may use or see or interact with in your life, and turning into a source of fear, tension, and discomfort.  The fact that because there is a certain amount of familiarity with something in the movie, in this case a normal summer camp in the woods, we can then use our imaginations and our disbelief to begin to believe how a place where so many have created cherished childhood memories, can turn into a labyrinth of pain, death, and mutilation.  The 80’s were chock full of repression, and from repression comes niche markets.  The aforementioned social climate saw a tidal wave of movies misdirecting our fear from the ones the nightly news we talking about, to indestructible bogeymen who can get us when we least expect it.  The only thing was, the niche was exploding at the seems, too much of a popular thing, and when niches become mainstream, they rarely remain the edgy, alternative , cathartic, and even experimental forms of entertainment they once were, they instead become just a vehicle for making a lot money.  F13 did have some surprisingly good sequels such as the ultra-violent and fast paced 4th entry (Friday the 13th The Final Chapter), which was originally slated to be the series finale, and the underrated 7th entry (Friday the 13th The New Blood) where Jason is confronted by some form of a meta-human with psychic powers who accidentally awakes him from his slumber (I call it slumber because it’s surely never death).  When it was all said and done though, most people didn’t see any of the newer entries as anything more than cannon-fodder for critics, porn for the perverse gore-hounds, and a cash cow for the big wigs pulling the strings.

Yet, there F13 sits, primed to make millions during one of the hottest movie going weekends of the year, Valentines Day Weekend.   Marcus Nispel and Michael Bay are directing and producing respectively.  This is the same tandem who delivered the Texas Chainsaw Massacre Remake back in 03, for what that knowledge is worth.  In the decade where Hollywood has completely abandoned any ability to create original content, especially within the horror genre, Jason Voorhees has been dug out of his 6 year nap, as Hollywood scrambles to put together a Reunion tour of sorts.  Michael Bay is surely kicking the tires on what once was a proud, thriving series to see if maybe now is the right to re-unleash the Camp Crystal Lake Slasher.

It will no doubt be financially successful, and will probably pay for itself within the first weekend, but I still feel uneasy.  Were less than 48 hours away from go time with the remake, and the Internet is buzzing, both good and bad.  Will my beliefs hold up?  Can a series that was at one point laughable, find a new home in the hearts of a new generation of film goers?

There’s only one thing I know for sure though.  It can’t be any worse than Rob Zombie’s Halloween.  Oh wait, fuck, what if it is?  Holy shit.  I need to lay down my head is starting to hurt.

Happy viewing this weekend fellow Midnighters, and do something nice for your girlfriend…oh wait who am I kidding, none of us have girlfriends.  But seriously, if you do, take them to see Friday the 13th.  They get all touchy feeling.  Trust Me.

Or just watch the recently released UNCUT version of the 1981 slasher sleeper hit My Bloody Valentine.

11
Feb
09

Internet Oddities – Feburary Edition

While I put the finishing touches on my Friday the 13th retrospective in anticipation of what be the most hyped up and possible disastrous remake of all time, I will share with you my recent Internet video findings.  This will be a mix of both upcoming horror trailers, along with some funny stuff.  Enjoy!

YEAH I KNOW YOU ALL HAVE SEEN THIS TRAILER BUT I DON’T CARE.  I CAN’T FUCKING WAIT FOR WATCHMEN!

GET PUMPED KIDS.  FRIDAY THE 13TH IN 2 DAYS, QUICKLY FOLLOWED BY THE WATCHMEN MARCH 6TH!


24
Jan
09

REPO! The Genetic Opera Review (Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman of SAW fame)

Badass.  Digging the Communist theme.

Badass. Digging the Communist theme.

Repo! The Genetic Opera is the brainchild of Darren Lynn Bousman, who most of you know as one half of the team that made SAW such an immensely popular and lucrative franchise, and buddy Terrance Zdunich, who is mainly a storyboard artist working on movies and TV shows.

Here’s a quick snapshot of the plot.

In the year 2056 – the not so distant future – an epidemic of organ failures devastates the planet. Out of the tragedy, a savior emerges: GeneCo, a biotech company that offers organ transplants, for a price. Those who miss their payments are scheduled for repossession and hunted by villainous Repo Men. In a world where surgery addicts are hooked on painkilling drugs and murder is sanctioned by law, a sheltered young girl searches for the cure to her own rare disease as well as information about her family’s mysterious history. After being sucked into the haunting world of GeneCo, she is unable to turn back, as all of her questions will be answered at the wildly anticipated spectacular event: The Genetic Opera. Written by Lionsgate

If there’s one thing that is grossly apparent right off the bat, it’s that Bousman and Zdunich have a lot of respect and love for cult classics such as Rocky Horror Picture Show and also seem influenced by more elegant and classic opera works such as Phantom of the Opera.  There’s even a bit of The Who’s rock opera Tommy in there.  It’s no shock that the mind that helped push the SAW franchise forward would be able to create a Gothic, dystopian future, but credit must be given for slick, yet earthly atmosphere embedded in the sometimes hallucinogenic visuals of the film.  It looks great, period.

Bousman manages to keep the narrative moving along swiftly with great focus, even while dealing with the difficult medium of opera.  That’s right kids, an opera where no word of dialogue is ever simply “said.”  Unlike musicals, where there can be breaks in between musical passages to drive the story home with normal movie dialogue, Bousman ensures that every word is “sung”, which can be very awkward at first when your not expecting it.  It’s difficult to accurately describe, but once you see and hear it you will clearly understand what obstacles must have popped up from this bold and daring choice.  Other than that, Bousman also unleashes some incredibly awesome graphic novel panels to fill us in VERY quickly of a particular characters background.

Paul Sorvino and his shotgun-wielding ninja chick bodyguards.

Paul Sorvino and his shotgun-wielding ninja chick bodyguards.

It may be a tricky type of film to make, but Bousman is a razor-sharp horror producer and director, and knew that if he brought in the right talent, he would have a chance to lure in a slew of fans regardless of the experimental nature of the film.  Paris Hilton (Super Global Slut) , Anthony Head (Giles from the Buffy TV Series), Sarah Brightman (acclaimed opera/classical singer and once married to Lloyd Weber who wrote Phantom of the Opera), Bill Moseley (Of House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devils Rejects fame) and Paul Sorvino round out the eclectic nucleus of the cast.  Terrance Zdunich also has a fairly large role as the Graverobber, and steals the show with his “Zydrate Anatomy” song.  The cast is, like so many aspects of this brave venture into total cult cinema, uneven throughout, with those who can sing clearly being more enjoyable and tolerable than those who can’t, with Alexa Vega and Bill Moseley probably being the two biggest culprits.  Hopefully the star power and notoriety brought by those actors outweighs the damage they have done by simply being the weak links vocally.

Sarah Brightman definitely has some bitchin' pipes.  And she's kinda sexy, in that scary way.  She probably a goddamn witch in real life.

Sarah Brightman definitely has some bitchin' pipes. And she's kinda sexy, in that scary way. She's probably a goddamn witch in real life.

Which leads me to my assessment of the acting itself, which again can be easily defined as uneven.  While some amount of over and under acting is perfectly acceptable in horror, especially in something this theatrical and over the top, but sometimes the cartoon like personalities crossed the line between tasteful and embarrassingly out of place.  At times the actors would play very serious, as if this carried the same weight as The Phantom of the Opera, and at other times it was clear everyone was having fun and things were much more airy and carefree.  I waited for the flick to settle down, and choose a definite mood and direction, but it never did, as it gleefully jumped back and forth between trying to be emotionally heavy and serious, and being grin-worthy, funny and lightweight.  Maybe I am reading to much into something that can’t truly be defined, but I would have loved to see some lines drawn pertaining to acceptable behavior from all characters, as you would with any other film.

She got the creepy, goggley eyes.  Burn at the stake, you kinda-sexy witch.

She's got the creepy, googly eyes. Burn at the stake, you kinda-sexy witch.

The final piece of the Repo puzzle is one that isn’t a very common problem in movies, the soundtrack.  That’s not to say all movies has great soundtracks, but they also don’t rely as heavily as Repo does on its’ music.  So how does the song selection hold up?  Take a guess.

UNEVEN.

Some of the songs, like Zydrate Anatomy and Legal Assassin knock it completely out of the park, while others are either too short or too gimmicky to be considered truly great. While taste is bound to vary from viewer to viewer, I felt the music was acceptable, but could’ve benefitted from maybe one or two ballads complete with verses, chorus, and a bridge and a few more rock and roll anthems.

There's also some gore, which is very well done, but used very rarely.

There's also some gore, which is very well done, but used very rarely.

I, like so many of you, have waited for years, eagerly anticipating this movie to be released in any format, anywhere.  And while it may look and sound like I have nothing but negative things to say about Repo!, I feel it’s a case of me being exceptionally critical of a piece of work I felt had all ingredients to really show the world how versatile the “horror” genre can truly be.  Repo is by no means a failure, but instead comes off as a combination of over-indulgence and lofty ambitions.  It succeeds at what it aimed to do, but the cost for achieving that goal may be a dent in Bousman’s reputation, depending on how this is received in the community.  There’s no doubt in my mind that this vehicle can be used to create an amazing, genre-bending film, but Repo! isn’t that flick.

There’s a lot of psychotropic, semi-gory fun to be had with Repo!, but it’s kinda like looking for a 20 dollar bill in your friends extremely messy room, you know it’s worth it to look, but your gonna have to sift through some shit to get what you want.

10
Jan
09

The Poughkeepsie Tapes Review

That's a lot of tapes.  Guy must of had a reward zone card for Best Buy.

That's a lot of tapes. Guy must of had a reward zone card for Best Buy.

The Poughkeepsie Tapes (or simply Tapes, as I will refer to it from here on out) is not a movie.

I’ll let that sink in.

“When hundreds of videotapes showing torture, murder and dismemberment are found in an abandoned house, they reveal a serial killer’s decade-long reign of terror and become the most disturbing collection of evidence homicide detectives have ever seen.” -Tribeca Film Festival Synopsis.

It’s a mockumentary, minus the comedy and satire.  It’s a mockumentary that houses a two-pronged attack of brutally accurate portrayals of torture, murder and dismemberment seamlessly interwoven with expert analysis and the thoughts and memories of those who were affected by the killers rampage, and those who were hunting him down.

In fact, it’s not too far removed from what the Discovery channel and TLC show on a daily basis.  All those shows about FBI profilers and how they catch these seriously deranged serial killers all seemed to be influential to the Dowdle Brothers, who both penned and directed Tapes.

And  writing may actually be Tapes strongest assets, although I’m sure it will get lost amidst all the chatter about the lengthy, suspenseful, and downright shocking film the killer shoots himself that is shown at certain intervals throughout.  The writing leaps off the screen, as the Dowdle brothers concoct a credible, highly intelligent, innovative killer and sets him loose in the “Anywhere, USA” suburbs of Poughkeepsie, New York.  The killer taunts his pursuers and gives cryptic clues for investigators to find, knowing far in advance where exactly the authorities will look to find them.  It’s this depth to a nameless, faceless character that brings us closer to him than is comfortable for most audiences.  Instead of being bogged down with trite, rationalizing back story about how the killer was beaten as a child or not hugged enough as a baby, we instead get an uncompromising and genius killer, who has found a way to elude the authorities all while documenting his spree.

A brief glimpse of the killer's throrough work.

A brief glimpse of the killer's thorough work.

Direction is also key, not so much in the static look of the interview pieces, (with the exception of the interview with Cheryl which actually made me lose sleep, it’s that fucking clever and disturbing) but in the low-fi, slow burn masterwork of the killers tapes.  The camera is almost always in the right position, whether it’s showing you everything that’s going on, or whether it’s showing you nothing, such as the inside of a car door, or an empty room.  There are times where the camera will be haphazardly placed, seemingly by accident, and we are left with just the screams and pleads of the victim and the orders of the killer to clue us in of what going on.  It’s a time-tested approach that works flawlessly here.  Show some gore in full view to screw with audience equilibrium, and then deprive them seeing something later on.  It works in two ways.  Once you don’t show the audience a scene straight on, it gets their minds working.  They create in their head horrible visions of what must be going on.  It also works to create a sickening feeling in the viewers, because they have to realize that they WANT to see whats happening, so much so they are willing to create the images in their own heads to replace the ones that aren’t on the screen.  It’s a lost art, but it’s a tactic employed by the Dowdle Bros. in exemplary fashion.

Eyes Without A Face reference in the movie.  Who would've thought?

Eyes Without A Face reference in the movie. Who would've thought?

With the audio and visual facets of the film firmly in and place grounded in reality, the one area where horror, or should I say terror in this case, goes awry is usually the acting.  You can have all your ducks in a row as far as directing and writing are concerned, but if your actors don’t come through in creating these characters in the physical form, than everything is lost.  Thankfully, the Dowdle Bros. must have been keen on this, and not only hired no names, but no names who looked liked everyday people.  I’m not sure how involved with the casting they were, but from what I’ve read and inferred through the piece itself, it seems fairly obvious they were pivotal in every decision made.  The most all inclusive and flattering thing I can say is, and this goes for the whole endeavor, not JUST the acting, if this were played one TV on night, and no one was told it wasn’t real, there would be a legitimate fear and uproar in many communities around the U.S.  It’s that believable.  So believable that even though I knew coming in it wasn’t real, I still lost sleep over it, and was looking over my shoulder while watching it.  It’s orchestrated with the sole intention of, if nothing else, to stay with you long after the credits have rolled.

Tapes has a long, uphill battle ahead it.  Still having no official release date for theatrical or dvd release, it is caught in release purgatory.  And once it is released, it will undoubtedly be met with serious backlash from angry mothers and politicians who won’t even bother to see the flick, but instead just berate both those who created it, and its fans.  It will be labeled as the next sick evolutionary step in the Torture Porn sub genre, when it really has a lot less to do with the fantasy world that movies like SAW occupy, and a lot more to do with the gritty, unfair, demented world we live in everyday.  There’s no sense of morals, right and wrong, or justification that other horror flicks try to implore.  It is just cruel, relentless, remorseless and always 10 steps ahead of you.  Just like the killer.

The Poughkeepsie Tapes has, buried underneath it’s tough outer shell, an insane amount of creativity and artistic ingenuity.  If an opportunity to see this bound-to-be-lost gem arises, don’t hesitate.  Just don’t plan on going to bed immediately afterward.