The Poughkeepsie Tapes

Movie title: The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2009) ***
Grade: F (0 stars)
Rated: R
Summation: Experts examine a serial killer’s recorded footage of torture, murder, and mutilation.
Spoilers ahead: No


Ask yourself why you’ve never heard of The Poughkeepsie Tapes (TPTs) or the Poughkeepsie murders before. Now you can go hunting around for the answer or I can just come right out and tell you. Alright, I’ll just tell you. The reason is that it’s bogus.

The Poughkeepsie Tapes is a “mockumentary,” like a documentary and done in the same style, but phony. It’s an altogether terrible film, but you have to acknowledge that making a mock documentary and selling it as a true story does stir up a lot of discussion and makes people ask questions.

What the makers and promoters (Tribeca Films, MGM, and writers Drew and John Dowdle) of TPTs want you to think is that an unknown and still uncaught serial killer from the late 1980s thru at least 2001 orchestrated a string of murders and left behind some 800 meticulously kept and organized VHS tapes of over 240 hours. These tapes contained horrific footage of a man’s abduction, torture, mutilation, disfigurement, and murder of his victims.

We are led to believe that a New York cop by the name of James Foley who picked up prostitutes was fingered for the murder of eight individuals, their bodies found buried in a yard on Waters Street. He became known as the Waters Street Butcher, so we are told. But the serial killer wanted the authorities to find the house and the videotapes that the police recovered. In that house was found the only survivor of this madman ever, a young woman named Cheryl Dempsey. The cop was executed for the murder of the women when it was discovered only days after his execution that the real killer was alive and still out there.

Believe that if you love murder mysteries and urban legends, but it’s not factual. The plot of TPTs seems to be based on the killings of Walter Francois, a man who kidnapped and murdered eight prostitutes, burying them in his backyard, for which he received eight consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole back in 1998. But Francois never videotaped his murders. And the supposed murderer/prostitute-loving cop James Foley was apparently pulled out of thin air. He doesn't exist.

And there was nothing particularly historical about Poughkeepsie, New York. There have been murders there, but none exceptional enough to make a documentary about. So while having been possibly inspired by tidbits of true events, this is all a bunch of hooey. Don’t let it fool you for a second, and don’t let the anonymous posting marketers who down-talk naysayers of the film on every movie blog and forum on the net convince you that they grew up there and witnessed these things firsthand. It’s more baloney.

Despite trying hard to be horrifying, only a few scenes are. It wasn’t as horrifying as Saw and other super-bloodbath flicks that know how to appease the gorehounds in an audience. The extreme unbelievability of the work sees to it that no one takes it seriously. Everything is laughably done. This would make good SNL material, much of it. The contrived acting was vomitous. I didn’t believe anybody for a second. The “interviews” and “experts” interviewed were more scripted than WWE. I will never get these two hours of my life back!

Towards the beginning of the film, with the abduction of Cheryl, we have a well-acted segment of a terrified girl hogtied like a Thanksgiving turkey. Later, we find the same girl being made to slit another captive girl’s throat, which she does in a way that wouldn't work. Any farm boy knows that it takes some doing to slit the throat of a pig or to de-horn a bull. It’s the same with slitting a wrist, but not so in this excuse for a documentary where throats are slit as easily as the plastic packaging being cut off a CD bought at Walmart.

The only reason anyone would dare to keep watching TPTs after the first five minutes would be to determine why the interviewers keep exalting this killer’s amazing abilities to throw off the experts. Real police, FBI, and legal/forensics experts don’t talk like this, of course. You’ll notice this when you hear one investigator say: “My wife wouldn’t let me touch her for a year.” (Allegedly because he brought the tapes home and watched them to get a jump on his workload.) Yeah, right!

And then there’s this little bit from an “expert” at the end...

“I’ll tell you one place we’ll be watching. If this documentary thing you’re making ever gets to the theatres, he won’t be able to help himself. He’ll see this movie as many times as he can. We’ll keep an eye on as many screenings as we can because [long pause]...he'll be there!”

Sorry. No sale, my friend!

The biggest fault among the many glaring ones that make this an awful abomination of a flick is that it is unrelenting in its childlike praise for the infamous killer. Have you ever heard a child invent a superhero or a villain and then go into overkill describing how unbeatable he is? That’s what you have here done by grown-ups. It’s bad—really bad!



Director: John Erick Dowdle
Starring: Stacy Chbosky “Cheryl Dempsey,” Ben Messmer “Ed,” Samantha Robson “Samantha,” Ivar Brogger “Leonard Schway,” Lou George “Felton Lewis,” Amy Lyndon “Alice Endrisart,” Michael Lawson “Simon Alray,” Ron Harper “Mike Moakes,” Kim Kenny “Pam Frears”
Genre: Horror/Thriller


  1. "Have you ever heard a child invent a superhero or a villain and then go into overkill describing how unbeatable he is?"

    Yeah, that's called religion. Haw haw haw.

    Seriously though, I don't think any about the marketing of the film implies deception. It was pretty obvious to me from the trailer. Although the opening "based on a true story" slates for Paranormal Activity did get me for a moment.

  2. Bogus? Not really. The story of the Poughkeepsie tapes is real. My best friends dad actually met the serial rapist himself. The guy went to dutchess community college and my friend's dad was actually a teacher who worked there. He was a student of his, and at a few points they were even in the same car with one another. Bogus, the only thing bogus is your intel.

  3. "John" is it? Is that your real name, or are you another militant backer of the film going around to all these blogs, trying to bolster the story?

    It's totally bogus. And even on the off-chance that some teeny-tiny element of this was based on some event somewhere, that still doesn't make this mess anymore credible.


  4. Aren't you doing the same? Bolstering the story with crap? I have friends and relatives who actually know the guy in some way. My friends dad was even in the same car as him. I live in pughkeepsie. I never even saw the movie, thus the reason I stumbled upon this thread. I was actually looking for a link to watch the movie.

  5. How can you even make a post about what I've said when you haven't seen the movie?

    But you're wrong. It's bogus. When you see the movie, you'll understand the basis of the review.

    Go see the movie and THEN get back to me.


  6. Saw the movie. But the Poughkeepsie murders are true.. I talked to my family members about it asking if they heard of it.. And in your first post you asked why no one ever has.. Well, that's wrong. The movie is not real. But it is based on an actual serial killer that was in Poughkeepsie. You kinda need to get better resources bro.

  7. Better resources? You didn't bother to offer one tiny bit of proof beyond your word-of-mouth nonsense. It's bogus.

    And what does that mean, anyway? How can something be "based" on "an actual serial killer" and the work not resemble what happened in any way? That's like saying the SAW series is based on Charles Manson because Manson and Jigsaw are both serial killers--has no meaning whatsoever.

    Damn, you're dense.

    And with you not having a scrap of evidence, why do you even care if I believe it or not? Why are you still posting? That by itself makes me suspicious as to who you say you are and what you claim.



    I win.

  9. But we still have the same problem, "John."

    Francois has been known for some time. Fact is, you can pull up any number of serial killers, especially in any given city in New York. That fact alone, in no specific way, lines up Francois or any others as adaptations for the movie.

    That's what you're not remembering. The movie doesn't directly adapt any killer's peculiar MO. The entire framework was made up and promoted heavily as though it was real. The whole story is a fake. The town of Poughkeepsie was picked because it sounded fairly unknown. You can't tie Francois or any real killer into this hodgepodge.

    So, no, you got nothing. You can't say that a story about a fictitious series of murders was "based" on some real killer who terrorized the same city. You could say, perhaps, that he was the inspiration for the film being created, but that doesn't mean it was "based" on it. But we don't know that for a fact, anyway.

    Are you just sitting at the computer and refreshing the page every few seconds to see when I've replied? Geez.

    Sounds like we're done here.


  10. Lol, you're saying the whole thing is bogus. But it's not. The film actually has some non fiction to it. That's the point. Actually im outside getting wood for the wood stove =D Again, you're wrong.

  11. Ok, fine. You got me not once, but twice.

    1) You weren't sitting at the computer the whole time. Accepted.

    2) Yes, of course there is SOME non-fiction to it, as there is SOME non-fiction in fairy tales.


  12. Too bad fairy tales dont consist of murder and rape. You're prolly the one sitting at the comp naked waiting for my reply, rofl.


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