Based on the book by Michael Lesy, the film WISCONSIN DEATH TRIP is a fascinatingly creepy account of the disasters that befell one small town in Wisconsin during the late 19th century. Lesy discovered an archive of haunting black and white photographs taken by the resident portrait photographer in the town of Black River Falls dating from the 1890’s and joined them with items from the local newspaper from the same time period, along with records from the nearby Mendota Asylum for the Insane. The town of Black River Falls seems stricken by some eerie malaise with the weekly news being dominated by bizarre tales of madness, eccentricity and violence amongst the local population.
The film unfolds over four seasons. Mary Sweeney is a cocaine snorting school mistress with a compulsion to run amok and smash windows. Another eccentric is Pauline L'Allemand, a mildly famous opera singer who gets washed up in the town with no money and ends up going more and more insane. A thirteen year old boy murders an old man for kicks and engages in sporadic gun battles with a pursuing posse. All the while, buildings are being torched by a bored teenage girl, a diphtheria epidemic devastates the town’s infant population and all sorts of strange suicides are being reported in great detail. Secret: My favorite was the window smasher- I love the sound of breaking glass.
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