Review: “Cropsey” (2010)

“The power of the urban legend is that it doesn’t claim to be the truth but that the truth is a range of possibilities. And, the audience must decide. So pick one.”

Such a powerful thesis statement from a documentary that only scratches the surface of the concept of “urban legend”…

Cropsey is a documentary meant to blur the line between documentary and horror. It is supposed to make you question where reality ends and myth begins. But it quickly walks away from its central urban legend, instead pointing us in the direction of a string of strangely connected crimes.

Cropsey seeks to crack the nut of Andre Rand, a homeless man accused of killing innocent (and handicapped) children on Staten Island. As his motivations are unknown, speculations swirl, running rampant over an hour and a half – at the end of which you may find yourself wondering, “Okay, Andre Rand did all these horrible things … but what the hell is ‘Cropsey’?”

That, my dearies, is the film’s flaw – what is Cropsey, and why should we care? At the top of the film, we’re given a great entree into the local urban legend: a man with a hook or a knife or some sort of murderous device is stealing away local children. No one knows where he takes them, and he apparently can make the Jersey Devil blush.

If you’re one of many viewers who live outside of Staten Island and do not know the legend, you probably want to know more about the folklore beyond the film’s brief intro. In fact, most of us might only know the name as the seemingly unrelated killer with the garden shears and trenchcoat who goes after Holly Hunter and George Costanza in The Burning.

That said, Cropsey‘s subject is an interesting story. Andre Rand – a creepster to end all creepsters – is accused of killing several local mentally disabled children. At one point he worked at a local mental institution notorious for its mistreatment of residents. Eventually, the mental institution – Willowbrook – was shut down, the residents released to roam the streets, and a lot of things happened that we assume transpired as a result of the facility’s being shut down. Andre Rand takes the fall for a tragedy.

While this is all speculation, the documentary draws very, very solid lines to these assumptions and does an excellent job of mapping out how despicable and duplicitous Andre Rand is. We watch the film wanting to understand how a sick, unwell, homeless man who preyed upon children could become the apparent bogeyman known as “Cropsey”. We know that Andre is despicable … but, does that make him Cropsey?

To truly work in the horror canon – which frequently features urban legends and haunted places – the film needs a more thorough explanation of the Cropsey legend. Since, you know, that is the title of the film.

Perhaps the legend itself is not flushed out and is simply local hearsay no one has ever documented until now. If that’s the case, the film might have simply just committed itself to crucifying Rand, rather than devoting itself to a widespread game of Telephone.

Directors Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio do an excellent job of researching and building an understanding of Rand. As documentarians who become a part of the film’s story, they are neither grating nor vacant – they provide an excellent drive to make you want to know who Rand is. Their urgency is infectious.

Cropsey plays like a long form episode of Unsolved Mysteries - it’s good, but at the end of the day it’s just another crime documentary. Given the attention that is paid to the intricacies of Rand’s case, the film’s framework is perhaps better suited for another, meatier, urban legend.

Rand’s story is ripe and it does leave you wanting more – but it does little to illuminate the urban legend of Cropsey.

RATING (OUT OF 5):

Cropsey is Unrated because there is no blood or guts or anything gory, you don’t really know who to trust, Geraldo Rivera (in all his seventies glory) is a character, and you get a lot of people who tawlk like this.

NOTE: Cropsey can be viewed in its entirety on Hulu.com – how cool is that?


Related posts:

  1. Review: “Best Worst Movie” (2010) If you’ve been with the Camp long, or have taken...
  2. Review: “The Last Exorcism” (2010) The devil is all the rage right now for the...
  3. Review: “Catfish” (2010) The ads for the cryptically promoted new documentary Catfish urge...
  4. Review: “Inception” (2010) Joseph Gordon-Levitt and friend in Inception The good news: I’m...
  5. Review: “Clash of the Titans” (2010) Perseus (Sam Worthington) hangs on to 3-D for dear life...

About KYLERAYMOND

A gay military kid who lived up and down the east coast finally decided to venture out West--and hasn't returned. With a love for horror films, champagne, short shorts, and CAPS LOCK, he spends his time writing, doing comedy, and being an assistant (oy). He has a dog and collects magazines with Lady Gaga on the cover, too.