The 2007 horror movie The Poughkeepsie Tapes which was re-released in 2017 certainly kept its viewers up at night.
The vivid images and horrifying scenes of torture, assault, and homicide made sure it would be counted among the scariest horror movies of all time. The most chilling factor behind its popularity is the fact it looks exactly like a real documentary.
The movie tells the story of a serial killer who videotapes everything, from the abduction of his victims to their deaths.
The attention to detail along with the incredible use of interviews and testimonies have the audience questioning their reality. But is The Poughkeepsie Tapes something that happened in real life, or is it fully fictional, read on to know more?
Is The Poughkeepsie Tapes Real?
No, The Poughkeepsie Tapes is not a real story. They are not based on a specific case itself. The creators of this horror movie marketed it as if it was based on real events, but that was just a trick. It was made to captivate the audience more, and the found footage genre has been known to do that.
The Director John Erick Dowdle wanted to add a touch of realism to the project. The killer, Edward Carver was made to look as if he videotaped his crimes for the pleasure of it.
Dowdle then added a documentary-style editing angle, complete with testimonies from the people close to the crime.
To add to the horror, it also had a pretend interview of the only victim to have survived Carver’s clutches.
The tapes tell the viewers that the footage used in the movie is used by the FBI as an educational resource. Quite similar to the concept of Mindhunter, it is supposed to help them understand psychopathic behavior.
But thankfully, the tapes are completely fictional, and even the murderer Carver had been created from scratch. However, his methods or modus operandi had been inspired by real-life serial killers.
The Decade-Long Wait
The movie first premiered at the 2007 film festival, but for different reasons, it was shelved for almost a decade. The movie had an amazing response from the audience at its premiere, but watching it later was made extremely difficult. Only a few horror fans were lucky enough to see it, and its praise was carried on by rumors.
In the Nightmare Of Film Street, the extent of its reputation was explained. No one knew why the movie had become a kind of cinematic cryptid, but some said it was due to its scenes of extreme torture.
For others, it was too scary. Some even said that the film was based on a real incident and that the families of the victims had filed a lawsuit against it.
The director, John Dowdle explained the simple truth. MGM, the party responsible for its distribution had bailed out, resulting in the movie falling through the cracks. The absence had been accidental, but in the end, it was the fans who were left with no legal means of watching the movie.
The only available version available for piracy had been an inferior rough cut. But thankfully in 2017, Shout Factory made it possible for the audience to see the right version.
Major Genre Shifter
A big name in the found-footage horror genre is The Blair Witch Project. But for Dowdle, The Poughkeepsie Tapes had been more about the impact of a first-person killer POV. He did not connect his project to the Blair Witch series, rather he was more inspired by the movie Halloween, the source behind found footage.
Dowdle felt that the more the audience connected with the victim, the more scared they were. In the first person, it was the audience who were doing the killings, making the scenario more bone-chilling. While there were rumors of the movie being banned, an article in The Artifice felt that the movie was pulled to spare the sanity of the viewers.
The Inspiration Behind The Killings
The Poughkeepsie Tapes may not have been inspired by one incident, but they drew from the acts of different serial killers.
The 20th-century murderers like John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy have made a serious impact on the television industry. But the character of Ed Carver is not based on one of them, rather he is made of different aspects of a slate of killers.
However, there is one killer who resembles Ed Carver, a Poughkeepsie native called Kendall Francois. In the August of 2000, Francois pled guilty to the eight counts of murder, but he is reported to have killed abound 10 sex workers between the years 1996 and 1998.
But Carver is not the same person as Francois. While Carver too was guilty of killing sex workers like the real murderer, Carver recorded the acts which Francois did not. Kendall Francois might have inspired the movie, but Edward Carver isn’t based on him.
The Poughkeepsie Tapes is a movie that did not fail to live up to its 10-year hype. The realism portrayed through the tapes made them more thrilling. But the truth is, the tapes were not based on any real-life incident.
They along with the murderer Edward Carver are completely fictional, made specially to scare the audience with their realism.