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March 21st, 2017

THE POUGHKEEPSIE TAPES (2007) *

The Poughkeepsie Tapes is kind of like a gory, fictionalized episode of one of those Discovery Channel criminal investigation shows about serial killers. We are shown snippets of videotapes a serial killer made before killing his victims. Afterwards, a team of experts analyze the footage and try to offer theories behind the killer’s motives. Detectives, forensic specialists, and even members of the victim’s families are also interviewed.

What makes this thing different than something you’d see on TV is the fact that the tapes are shown in all of their disgustingness with nothing blurred out. Well, that’s not entirely true. Director John Erick Dowdle goes a bit overboard with the post-production distortion in an effort to make the tapes look old and decrepit. By doing so, all he accomplishes is making it harder to see just what the hell is going on. It also doesn’t help that the kills on the tapes are nothing more than your typical shaky-cam Found Footage stuff. None of it works as the overall effect is more depressing than anything.

The stuff with the interviewees is slightly better. It would’ve helped if they found some better actors to sell their “critical analysis”. As it is, the acting is rather uneven. While some are able to convincingly pass themselves off as talking heads, others are painfully obvious phonies right out of Central Casting.

Dowdle went on to direct other insufferable shaky-cam nonsense with the likes of Quarantine and As Above So Below.

TRAPPED (1982) *

Director William Freut made this boring slog of an exploitation flick in between the slightly better Funeral Home and Spasms. It plays like a mash-up of an ‘80s Dead Teenager movie and a ‘70s Deliverance rip-off. Fans of either genre will likely walk away disappointed.

Henry Silva stars as a redneck who rules a no-horse backwoods town with an iron fist. When he catches a traveling salesman messing around with his young bride, he covers him with tar and feathers. Nicholas Campbell and his friends go camping in the woods and witness Silva murder the man in cold blood. They go to the cops, but since the sheriff is Silva’s brother, he doesn’t do anything.

Naturally, the teens are too stupid just to leave town, but noooooo…. They’ve got to go back to get their tents. Of course, Silva finds them, captures them and threatens to rape Campbell’s girlfriend if he doesn’t give himself up. This all leads to the big confrontation in which Campbell and Silva have an axe vs. crowbar fight.

Despite a modicum of promise, the movie never really works, partially due to the glacial pacing. It takes forever for something to happen, and when it finally does, the film relies on stupid characters doing dumb things to start, prolong, and sustain the (what passes for) suspense. Plus, there just isn’t enough exploitation goods here (aside from a couple of gratuitous breast shots) to make it stand out from the rest of the pack.

It also doesn’t help that Silva is sorely miscast. Yes, if you want a slimy, sleazy homicidal Mob hitman, Silva is your go-to guy. However, a slimy, sleazy homicidal backwoods hillbilly is just out of his wheelhouse.

AKA: Baker County, USA. AKA: The Killer Instinct.

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