Wisconsin Death Trip (1999)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Wisconsin Death Trip Photos

Movie Info

This 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.
Documentary , Special Interest
Directed By:
In Theaters:


Ian Holm
as Narrator
Jo Vukelich
as Mary Sweeney
Marilyn White
as Pauline L'Allemand
Jeff Golden
as The Newspaper Editor
Marcus Monroe
as Young Anderson
John Baltes
as Undertaker
Raeleen McMillion
as Crying Woman
Krista Grambow
as Mourning Woman
Clay Anton
as Eloping Man
Bobby Jo Westphal
as Eloping Woman
Zeke Dasho
as Edgar L'Allemand
Dave Broeren
as Sheriff's Posse Member
Carl Holzchuh
as Sheriff's Posse Member
Everett Schulz
as Sheriff's Posse Member
Mich Steenbenners
as Sheriff's Posse Member
Chris Holzchuh
as Sheriff's Posse Member
Dennis Laubenstein
as Sheriff's Posse Member
Jason Schraufnagel
as Sheriff's Posse Member
Matt Van Haren
as Sheriff's Posse Member
Mark Gubin
as Photographer
Jim Jones
as Editor's Assistant
Tess Miller
as Coffin Girl
Clay Simchick
as Hanging Man
Michael Olson
as Asylum Guard
Gerald Myhre
as Asylum Guard
Carl 'Vinny' Besasie
as Man on Train
Larry Birkett
as Unemployed German
Bob Hirschi
as Man in Snow
Steve Strobel
as Man in Snow
Jahn Rasmussen
as Norwegian Lunatic
Lloyd Mueller
as Krist Wold
Thomas Jacobson
as Baby in Snow
Will Roshke
as 9-Year-Old Shooter
Emily Roshke
as Sister
Eddie Kunz
as Abandoned Boy
Leah Delaney
as Frozen Woman
Nathan Butchart
as Dead Boy
Joseph Dana
as Girl at Window
Todd Bausch
as Hearse Driver
Brittany Istre
as Baptised Girl
Ron Pasta
as Minister
Jason Loewi
as Anderson's Brother
Harold Fager
as Holmfeldt
Jeana Stillman
as Drowned Girl
Ruth Johansen
as Norwegian
Roy Johansen
as Norwegian
Mary Jo Kennedy
as Norwegian
Forrest Stevens
as Norwegian
Colin Webster
as Edwin Miller
Julia Newby
as Lena Watson
Christy Monroe
as Kissing Girl
Michelle Vollmer
as Pregnant Girl
John Mason
as Stretcher Bearer
Kevin Gural
as Stretcher Bearer
Richard Johnson
as Religious Lunatic
Brayden Michael Moran
as Gust Seewald
Jessica Woodrow
as Minnie Dominitz
Molly Anderson
as Mrs. Larson
Liam Anderson
as Larson Child
Katherine Anderson
as Larson Child
Kevin Anderson
as Larson Child
Gene Kalmes
as Barn Fire Man
Alfred Bruce Bradley
as Whipped Man
Angel Hamilton
as Fire Girl
Vania Prahcharov
as Praying Woman
Oscar Gutknecht
as Mr. Jones
James Gollato
as Bank Assassin
Don Rashke
as Bank Manager
Dave Schuster
as Colleague
Darleen Gutknecht
as Woman in Carriage
Drew Brhel
as Drunk Shooter
Sara Freeman
as Amy Miller
Lance Marsh
as Fred Shepherd
Karl Lewis Miller
as Jealous Husband
James Tasse
as Porter Ross
Carol Zippel
as Porter Ross's Victim
Lyn Neuenfeldt
as Porter Ross's Victim/Woman on Fire
Scott Glasser
as Porter Ross's Victim
Debbi Suomi
as Servant Girl
Molly Nikolic
as Servant Girl
Ali Idle
as Winter Bride
Paul Baesing
as Husband
Mary Jo Kassner
as Vomiting Woman
Mike Hanko
as Sheriff
Jim Moc
as Aged Father
Tyler Marenes
as Running Boy
John Battram
as Old Lunatic
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for Wisconsin Death Trip

All Critics (24) | Top Critics (10)

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.

Full Review… | March 3, 2014
New York Daily News
Top Critic

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.

Full Review… | March 3, 2014
New York Post
Top Critic

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.

Full Review… | March 3, 2014
AV Club
Top Critic

Chillingly beautiful cinematography makes the state's landscapes appear timeless as it sets the stage for a grim history.

Full Review… | March 3, 2014
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

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.

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
Top Critic

What emerges is primal American Gothic: a blighted pathos which is also irrepressibly, grotesquely funny.

Full Review… | January 25, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Wisconsin Death Trip

Somewhere between documentary and a ghost story lies this eerie but absorbing portrait of life in 19th century Wisconsin. It's one of the best documentaries I've seen in a long while

Gordon Briggs
Gordon Briggs

This docudrama really goes for style over anything else. The story is really just told through news stories from the time. This works for a short period. Then, it tries to flash to the present day to reflect on the past, but that doesn't work either. I don't think they picked the right times to transition to those parts with the interviews. This probably worked as the book. Diving into history through details about news stories and how it compared to the region in general and contrast it to modern life seems more palatable in text and not sound bites over reenactments. But those reenactments are visually well composed and have a mood to them.

Lee B
Lee B

Unusual documentary, primarily shot in black and white. Amazing archive footage and it?s put together very well. It is such a strange and compelling story, it certainly held my interest.

James Higgins
James Higgins

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