Wisconsin Death Trip (1999)
Movie InfoThis film adaptation of Michael Lesy's 1973 book takes a look at the sordid and disturbing underside of life in a small Wisconsin community in the 1890s. In the early 1970s, Lesy discovered a large collection of curious photographs from Black River Falls, Wisconsin, taken near the end of the 19th century, and began doing research on the town in hopes of learning the story behind them. Lesy was startled by what he learned; over the course of a decade, Black River Falls fell victim to a severe diphtheria epidemic, the local economy collapsed following the shutdown of a mining business, a serial arsonist terrorized the community, a lunatic claiming to act under God's orders held 26 people hostage at the local church, two children murdered a farmer, a number of infants were abandoned or killed, and an undercurrent of violence and madness seemed to taint all aspects of the town's history. Using both the original photographs and silent recreations staged by director James Marsh (accompanied by narration from Ian Holm), Wisonsin Death Trip attempts to recreate the disturbing qualities of the photos and news clippings that formed the basis of Lesy's book. The film also features an original score by turntablist DJ Shadow. … More
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Critic Reviews for Wisconsin Death Trip
Marsh's film alludes to the poor economy of the former mining town but has little else to say about potential causes or motivation. Marsh just piles the events on, as if there's black humor in their sheer volume. Nope, just a big boring pile.
The main problem with Wisconsin Death Trip is the way the format distances you from the subject matter, so that stories may shock, but they never move you.
Wisconsin Death Trip chronicles, in bleakly funny vignettes, the marathon of perverse, violent, and frequently inexplicable acts of violence and insanity that gripped the seemingly cursed Wisconsin town of Black River Falls during the late 19th century.
Chillingly beautiful cinematography makes the state's landscapes appear timeless as it sets the stage for a grim history.
Those who pine for the presumed simpler life and upright morals of yesteryear's small-town Midwest have a rude, albeit wry, awakening in store with Wisconsin Death Trip.
What emerges is primal American Gothic: a blighted pathos which is also irrepressibly, grotesquely funny.
Crisply photographed in black and white by cinematographer Eigil Bryld and extremely violent, it's the hellish flip-side to Little House on the Prairie.
Wisconsin Death Trip is always lyrical, sometimes blackly farcical, and sometimes terrifying, as it reveals the romanticised American frontier's true desperation.
Required viewing for anyone who thinks the modern media created the social ills that accost us so frequently today.
Chances are you have never seen a film quite like Wisconsin Death Trip
. . .a fever dream of a film that is haunting, capable of jarring moments of revelation about the timelessness of human nature. . .
If sitting in a library basement reading random newspaper articles on microfilm for two hours is your idea of a good time, then this movie has your name all over it.
Michael Lesy's macabre 1973 cult book of photographs has been given the documentary treatment in this seemingly made-for-the-movies true story.
An unsettling semi-documentary narrated by Ian Holm that chronicles the bizarre goings-on in and around the town of Black River Falls, Wis., between 1890 and 1900.
Marsh belabors the grotesque, and shock gives way to nausea as he piles on accounts of unexplained suicides, abandoned children, psychotic delusions, and other gory vignettes.
Combines documentary photos with actor re-creations to assemble a stunning catalog of cheesehead mayhem.
Audience Reviews for Wisconsin Death Trip
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