Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Cropsey 2009

Not to long ago I wrote a review of The Burning, a typical Slasher that featured a maniac named "Cropsey" who liked to slice and dice teenage campers.  Turns out "Cropsey" is an honest to goodness East Coast Urban Legend and the subject of a recent documentary....

Directed by Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio, Cropsey uses the famed Urban Legend to introduce us to a real life tragedy: a series of child abductions and murders that took place on Staten Island in the 70s and 80s.

Accused and convicted of at least one of the murders was Andre Rand, a homeless eccentric known to hang around the abandoned Willowbrook State School where he once worked as an orderly.

Willowbrook, which wasn't closed until 1987, became famous thanks in part to an expose by Geraldo Rivera.  Rivera revealed the deplorable conditions the "student" lived in.  The children were all disabled or mentally handicapped, "dumped" at Willowbrook and forgotten.  The "Urban Legend" surrounded Willowbrook is that some of the students were still there, living in the underground tunnels known to exist under the school.  The other story was that "Cropsey", a maniac who snatched children from the forest, also lived under the school.  Legend became reality when children began to go missing, and Rand was a perfect stand-in for the Cropsey our our nightmares.

Cropsey is more about the witch hunt and trials of Andre Rand instead of the Urban Legend.  Definitely a creep, Rand was convicted on the flimsiest of evidence.  Although the filmmakers refuse to share their opinions of whether or not Rand was guilty, what is clear is their disillusionment with the legal system.  Rand is a Hannibal Lecter type character who plays mind games with Zeman and Brancaccio, but that does not mean he his guilty.  Accused of everything from Satan worship to necrophilia, the community and the press were anxious for someone to blame, and Rand fit the bill. 

I had to do come research to confirm that this was an actual documentary and not a docu-drama.  Some of the film has a "Blair Witch" type feel to it, and some things just fit together a little to perfectly. As the viewer you feel you are being manipulated a bit, and we probably are.  Nevertheless, the film is very good and very chilling.   The "Cropsey" legend is still around to scare the local boy scouts, and teenagers still visit the ruins of Willowbrook to give themselves a good scare.  Few of the teenagers have ever heard of the real life child murders that took place in their backyard. Most of the bodies have never been found, and there are still doubts about Rand's guilt.  Real life can be as horrifying and fiction or legend.


Drymonema said...

I thought this was a really eerie documentary and a great watch. Great review!

Lisa Parsons said...

this was a really good crime documentary. i thought that it may be a blair witch derivative,but truth is stranger than fiction. there was no real resolution at the end,and many shades of grey.very intriguing and thought provoking,and well done.it also has an interest in the view point of the victims of crime,which is unusual.