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Wisconsin Death Trip

✭ ✭   Read critic reviews

United Kingdom, USA

1999

1h 16m

Director James Marsh

Starring Ian Holm

Genre Documentary, Crime, Horror

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Wisconsin Death Trip is an intimate, shocking and sometimes hilarious account of the disasters that befell one small town in Wisconsin during the final decade of the 19th century. The film is inspired by Michael Lesy's book of the same name which was first published in 1973. Lesy discovered a striking archive of black and white photographs in the town of Black River Falls dating from the 1890s and married a selection of these images to extracts from the town's newspaper from the same decade. The effect was surprising and disturbing. The town of Black River Falls seems gripped by some peculiar malaise and the weekly news is dominated by bizarre tales of madness, eccentricity and violence amongst the local population.

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30

New Times (L.A.) by Bill Gallo

Marsh's flat-footed recitation of Believe It or Not crimes grows tedious, and his condescension to present-day citizens of the town (implying they're as grotesque and doomed as ever) rings false.
60

Chicago Reader by Lisa Alspector

Chillingly beautiful cinematography makes the state's landscapes appear timeless as it sets the stage for a grim history told with archival portraits.
63

Chicago Tribune by Michael Wilmington

The film is not exactly a documentary, and not quite a period horror movie either. But it has elements of both. At its best, it's hypnotic and provocative.
67

Seattle Post-Intelligencer by William Arnold

It's a parade of insanity, murder, suicide, arson and crimes of passion; delivered in a style as sardonic and tongue-in-cheek as a Vincent Price monologue; complemented by deadpan narration that keeps injecting inappropriate bits of civic boosterism.