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The Poughkeepsie Tapes True Story: How Much Of The Movie Is Actually Real

The Poughkeepsie Tapes is an eerie found footage movie that is largely fictionalized, but drew influence from several real-life serial killers and murders — here's how much of the movie is real. Director John Erick Dowdle marketed The Poughkeepsie Tapes as being based entirely on real events in order to captivate audiences with the horrifying snuff movies, news reports, and interviews that encapsulate everything that took place in a basement in Poughkeepsie, New York.

John Erick Dowdle is best known for his horror movies, especially in the found footage sub-genre. His best-known movie is 2014's As Above, So Belowbut he's also been recognized for Devil (2010) and Quarantine (2018). While his filmography is not as lengthy as other directors in the genre, Dowdle's movies have made a lasting impact on the use of found footage horror as it has continued to develop from its roots in The Blair Witch Project. Found footage movies are some of the most captivating stories due to their ability to hint at some form of truth behind them and add elements of realism. Recently, Michael Goi's Megan Is Missing went viral on TikTok and, along with it, so have The Poughkeepsie Tapes. Both found footage movies offer disturbing depictions of kidnapping, assault on women and children, as well as murder.

Related: Friday The 13th Reboot Was Almost Found Footage: Why It Didn't Happen

While marketing for found footage movies informs audiences that what they are about to witness is almost entirely real, The Poughkeepsie Tapes is all fabricated with only a few shreds of truth utilized by Dowdle to create one of horror's most terrifying killers. The movie follows a team of investigators as they discuss the videotape recordings the killer kept as a keepsake; they served as a reminder of each murder. The investigation uncovered 800 videotapes hidden in the basement of a house he rented. As the detectives dive into the unknown killer's mind, it leads them down a path more disturbing than they could have ever predicted. Despite the claim that The Poughkeepsie Tapes was based on a real-life event, it wasn't. Instead, it was influenced entirely by past serial killers and their crimes as well as the exploitative contents of snuff films. Snuff films commonly depict obscene content, normally acts of real homicide. Cannibal Holocaust is considered a fictional snuff film based on its extensive use of bodily torture, murder, and cannibalism.

There is heavy debate in the film industry on which movies are depicting actual murders and acts of self-mutilation versus those that are staged. Actual filmed murders and executions do exist, but they weren't made with the intent to entertain an audience. The only real-life murders and criminal acts that The Poughkeepsie Tapes can be tied to are Kendall Francois's ten murders, which took place from 1996 to 1998. According to local newspapers, Francois killed ten sex workers. Despite the influence his crimes may have had on the movie, he never recorded any of his crimes, which adds a further level of separation between the true story and what the film depicts.

The notorious serial killer Ted Bundy also influenced the found footage horror movie. In The Poughkeepsie Tapes, detectives interview Bundy in hopes of garnering some kind of insight or a pattern to help solve the crime. Surprisingly, the serial killer is complicit, and even attempts to help them find a motive by asking when he sexually assaults his victims. Bundy was executed in 1989 for the brutal murders of 30 known victims, but it's estimated that he killed many more. He primarily targeted women, much like the killer in The Poughkeepsie Tapes. Ultimately, the movie is somewhat based on real events, but only takes portions of them rather than adapting their full stories, as other horror movies have done. There were no actual snuff movies tied to any serial killer, and the character in the movie is original to the story.

For many years, The Poughkeepsie Tapes was extremely hard to find a legal copy of. That's due to The Poughkeepsie Tapes being pulled from release for almost a decade. Thankfully, that time is now firmly passed, and interested horror fans can watch the film quite easily. A Blu-ray was released in 2017, and The Poughkeepsie Tapes can also currently be streamed on several different services, including Paramount+, Epix, AMC+, DirecTV, Spectrum, and Shudder. Oddly though, it's only available to subscribers of those particular services, and not to rent or buy at general digital retailers. Despite that discrepancy in viewing options, it's a true victory for horror fans that The Poughkeepsie Tapes is now widely available, after being sought after for so long.

More: Why Cannibal Holocaust Was So Controversial

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