CROPSEY Mini-Review [Fantastic Fest ’09]

Posted by Peter Hall - November 24th 2009 @ 7:00 am

Directed by Barbara Brancaccio, Joshua Zeman, 2009
Written by Joshua Zeman

Documentaries often deal with scary subject matter — JESUS CAMP is more terrifying than any work of fiction I saw in 2006 — but rarely do they intermingle with the typical horror movie narrative.  Yet such is CROPSEY, a documentary that tackles a story so ripped from a horror movie script that it had a good number of people at Fantastic Fest wondering if it was a indeed a mockumentary.  Unfortunately, it’s all true.

Filmmakers Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio grew up on Staten Island hearing scary stories about a boogeyman named Cropsey who stalked the woods surrounding the giant, abandoned Willowbrook Mental Institution at the center of the island, snatching up anyone who came too close with his hook hand.  However, when children started to go missing in the ’80s, Cropsey was no longer a work of over-active imaginations meant to keep kids from playing in dilapidated buildings.  Their boogeyman was real and he had a name: Andre Rand.  And he was allegedly responsible for the serial kidnapping of young, mentally handicapped children around the orbit of Willowbrook, where he used to work.

What’s so impressive about CROPSEY is not only does it tell a very creepy story of a “real world horror movie”, but it is also a thorough examination of how urban legends are created by taking a closer look at the accusations and evidence levied against Rand and whether he was responsible or not.  Brancaccio and Zeman refuse to draw any conclusions for the audience, instead presenting as much of the full story as they were capable of uncovering; and it’s a batshit insane story that I’m honestly amazed has not been turned into a work of fiction already.  Rand’s lineage,  the shocking footage of what went on inside Willowbrook when Rand worked there, his alleged ties to a group of Satanists, the woman who still digs around Willowbrook on a regular basis, hoping to find more missing children…it is all utterly engrossing and will stick with you for days.

CROPSEY is one of my favorite documentaries in recent years.  I don’t know when it’s coming out on DVD, but when it does, I’ll be making all kinds of noise about it.

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