USA / UK, 1999 (MIFF 2000, Documentaries)
Director: James Marsh
In the last decade of the 1800s the town of Black Falls, Wisconsin, suffered some very, very bad times. As if a curse had been invoked against the inhabitants of this idyllic rural community, murder, arson, insanity, disease, suicide and gruesome tragedies began to proliferate. One man, the local newspaper editor, chose to chronicle the bizarre events that shook the town. Even as a resident he was unable to explain the sudden reign of catastrophe and its just as sudden cessation. James Marsh's documentary is based upon a book by Michael Lesy which collects macabre photographs and accounts from the time. The photographs form the basis for the stark black and white imagery of the film, while Ian Holm (eXistenZ. MIFF 1999, The Sweet Hereafter) narrates the mayhem. From the apparently harmless (a compulsive window smasher) to the genuinely evil (young boys on a murder spree). Wisconsin Death Trip holds more horrific tales than the entire Hammer studios back catalogue. Truth that is far stranger than fiction recalled by a reporter whose detachment begins to falter once it becomes apparent that dark forces are afoot in his home town.