6.7/10
1,332
31 user 39 critic

Wisconsin Death Trip (1999)

Not Rated | | Crime, Drama, History | 9 March 2000 (Denmark)
A series of grisly events that took place in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, between 1890 and 1900 are dramatized.

Director:

James Marsh

Writers:

Michael Lesy (book), James Marsh

On Disc

at Amazon

3 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »

Photos

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Cast

Credited cast:
Ian Holm ... Narrator (voice)
Jeffrey Golden Jeffrey Golden ... Editor (as Jeff Golden)
Jo Vukelich Jo Vukelich ... Mary Sweeney
Marcus Monroe Marcus Monroe ... Young Anderson
Marilyn White Marilyn White ... Pauline L'Allemand
John Schneider John Schneider ... Asylum Clerk / Whispering Voice
John Baltes John Baltes ... Undertaker
Raeleen McMillion Raeleen McMillion ... Crying Woman
Krista Grambow Krista Grambow ... Mourning Woman
Clay Anton Clay Anton ... Eloping Couple (male)
Bobbie Jo Westphal Bobbie Jo Westphal ... Eloping Couple (female)
Scott Hulbert Scott Hulbert ... Pouch
Zeke Dasho Zeke Dasho ... Edgar L'Allemand
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Kathryn Anderson Kathryn Anderson ... Mrs. Larson
Kevin Anderson Kevin Anderson ... Larson Child
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Storyline

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 nineteenth century. The film is inspired by Michael Lesy's book of the same name, which 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. Suicide and murder are commonplace. People in the town are haunted by ghosts, possessed by demons, and terrorized by teenage outlaws and arsonists. Like the book, the film is constructed entirely from authentic news reports from the Black River Falls' newspaper, with ... Written by MAR

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Crime | Drama | History

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Hands On Productions, Inc.

Country:

UK | USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

9 March 2000 (Denmark) See more »

Also Known As:

Kuoleman loukko See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Broadcast in the U.K. as part of the BBC's prestigious Arena (1975) series. See more »

Connections

Referenced in #PizzaGate: The Documentary (2016) See more »

Soundtracks

Oh, Never Sing to Me Again
Opus 4, no. 4
by Sergei Rachmaninoff
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A lot of potential, but a grave disappointment
6 November 2004 | by FilmOtakuSee all my reviews

Directed by James Marsh, 'Wisconsin Death Trip' chronicles a period of Wisconsin history in which there were an inordinate amount of murders, commitments to the mental asylum and general 'colorful' doings. While there are some photographs from the time period used, the lion's share of this film utilizes footage akin to dramatic recreations.

The first time I saw the film 'Wisconsin Death Trip', I believe that I was more taken with the fact that it was something unusual, and not a 'regular' documentary, and I let the gross lack of substance be overridden by the obscure subject matter. After seeing it now for the second time almost two years later, I still feel that the subject matter is compelling, but I remembered more clearly that I left the film the first time with a sense of emptiness and more questions than I normally feel comfortable with after sitting through 76 minutes of film.

There are many shortcomings and manipulation of facts in this film. The narration (by Ian Holm) tells us that the focus is on Black River Falls, a very small town in northern Wisconsin. Yet, many of the goings-on didn't take place remotely near Black River Falls. There are stories of murder and mayhem in Kenosha, for example – Kenosha being a good three and half hours (minimum) by the interstate from Black River Falls. Also confusing is both the claim that the events described took place over a nine year period, yet the presentation leads us to believe that they actually took place in the course of a year. Not entirely important, unless one is trying to establish the magnitude of these events; obviously the impact is much larger when presented in one-ninth the time they actually took place. And in regard to the events in question, they, coupled with some very striking and creepy photographs, provide some very intriguing and creepy insight. Unfortunately, the filmmaker did not provide us with any kind of outlet as to why these events were occurring when they hadn't before, nor does he give us a lot of background for the audience to hypothesize for him.

While the subject matter is very interesting, 'Wisconsin Death Trip' falls far short of what it could have been. There is a book of the same title by Michael Lesy which perhaps explores some of the issues which don't get explained in the film, but unfortunately, when a film is presented as a documentary, the onus should not be on the audience to do the research that should have been included in the first place. This is a real niche film that is probably going to appeal most to Wisconsin historians, but as someone who both lives in the state and is extremely interested in both Wisconsin history and lore, I was not remotely impressed. 4/10

Shelly


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