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.
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.