Wisconsin Death Trip | Chicago Reader

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A challenging climate—meteorological and economic—may have driven Wisconsin residents to do more than their share of crazy, awful things, according to this documentary emphasizing events in the Black River Falls area in the 1890s. Chillingly beautiful cinematography makes the state's landscapes appear timeless as it sets the stage for a grim history told with archival portraits, photographs of people unlucky enough to have had their pictures in the paper, and grisly yet comical reenactments of suicides, murders, and harder-to-classify crimes and misfortunes. Like the dramatizations set in the distant past, brief sequences in which modern Wisconsinites recall the crimes of Edward Gein and Jeffrey Dahmer are imbued with a facetious tone, but the resulting collage seems as guileless as the man and woman posing briefly in front of a funeral home they own. The tantalizing 1990s portrait suggests that they benefit from the sorrow of their neighbors, then fades to black, as if to preserve the couple's innocence—and the movie's neutrality. Written and directed by James Marsh, based on a 1973 book by Michael Lesy, and narrated by Ian Holm. 76 min.

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