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Overall Rating

Awesome: 11.11%
Worth A Look: 0%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 11.11%
Total Crap77.78%

1 review, 3 user ratings

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Wisconsin Death Trip
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by Brian McKay

"Death would have been a relief"
1 stars

A title like "Wisconsin Death Trip" carries all kinds of connotations with it, none of which are even remotely lived up to by this film. While it does take place in Wisconsin, and there is a fair amount of death, the trip itself is the cinematic equivalent of a Bataan death march, and will leave you feeling like an 8 year old with a full bladder in the back seat who can only wonder repeatedly, "Are we there yet?"

I was prompted to see "Wisconsin Death Trip" by three things - the somewhat catchy (and, in this case, far too flamboyant) title, the very brief plot synopsis I read that tells of a small town in 1900 that was plagued by death and insanity, and a raving five star review by one of the local film critics who I am thinking of sending a bill for my wasted 9 bucks.

Admittedly, the premise sounded good on paper. In the town of Black River Falls, Wisconsin, A slew of odd murders, suicides, and cases of insanity occured between 1890 and 1900. Sounds interesting, doesn't it? As if there is some big mystery to be solved about why this town went ape shit. Well, there isn't any big mystery. Guess what, people did as much nutty shit a hundred years ago as they do today, so "Wisconsin Death Trip" is certainly no great insight to the human condition. Nevertheless, the subject matter could have still been interesting. Alas, the filmmakers made no effort to present it in any kind of compelling, enlightening, or even entertaining format. There is no dialouge to speak of, no real characterization or plot or cohesive theme or point, it seems. The entire hour and a half consists of an unseen Ian Holm (even he can't save this) reading newspaper articles from the town's history during the aforementioned period. As he narrates, we are treated to a string of images consisting of either authentic photos from the period, or bland re-enactments shot in black in white. There is no rhyme or reason to this mish-mash of accounts, which describe everything from murder and suicide to arson and petty vandalism.

Occasionally there is a flash forward to the Black River Falls of the present, as we are treated to equally monotonous visuals of small town life in full color, as a disc jockey reads the local news. These present-day vignettes do nothing to propel the film forward or clarify whatever point is trying to be made. What purpose do they serve? To show that this idyllic slice of small-town U.S.A. has a dark period in its history? Well, so does any other town at any given time. I would have actually cared if the filmmakers had bothered with any kind of real script or dialouge, or provided any kind of character development to give the narration an emotional resonance. An hour and a half of someone reading dry newspaper clippings (even if it is someone as great as Ian Holm) does not make for an intriguing film. It was more akin to the film strips we used to watch in grammar school, the kind that would provide loud beeps during the narrative to let the teacher know when it was time to turn to the next frame. Those beeps might have actually made for an improvement in that they would keep the audience awake.

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. However, the meandering narrative, which grows quickly tedious, will be insufferable after an hour and a half, if not much sooner.

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originally posted: 01/14/02 17:29:10
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User Comments

8/25/07 patrick MOORE like watching paint dry 2 stars
5/06/04 Jean Kohanek Insufferable and misleading---the reports are from towns all over the state, not just BRF. 1 stars
4/08/02 harley wisconsin sucks i hate it 5 stars
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Directed by
  James Marsh

Written by
  James Marsh

  Ian Holm
  Jo Vukelich
  Jeffrey Golden
  Marilyn White
  John Schneider

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