Monday, December 27, 2010
Combining part urban legend with real life news stories, Cropsey sees two documentary filmmakers as they explore the story behind one of Staten Island's most notorious figures. The film interweaves urban legends, true stories of a mental hospital and the horrific treatment of its patients, as well as the investigation of a homeless drifter who's the prime suspect in a series of child abductions. While the film ends with no clear resolution, it does what all good horror stories should do: leaving it up to the viewer to decide. Afterall, there is no greater horror than the one you make in your own mind.
Our film starts as various stories of a killer in the woods around Staten Island are told. A child killer who, depending on who's telling the story, has a specific way of doing his deed: axe, hook, knife, etc. In true urban legend fashion, at its heart, similarities exist with each recount. But as they are told and re-told over time, certain elements differ. But one thing is for certain: no one dares goes into the woods at night around the area.
What follows next becomes the basis for the rest of the film: in the 80's, a homeless drifter (Andre Rand) who has ties to the old, now abandoned mental hospital, is the main suspect in a series of child abductions. Painting a picture of a real-life boogeyman, the man appears to clearly be the type of person who could commit such acts, both in appearance and how he carries himself--sluggish and clearly, 'out of it.'
Things become suspect as additional histories about the island are revealed. The land is also said to be used by various Satanic cults and that our prime suspect my only be a pawn in their practices, having him bring them children for their sacrifices. Various 'experts' go on record as saying that he shouldn't be the sole focus at all. That these cults are actually planting evidence to make him look like the main perpetrator.
But things become even more clouded by the actions of Rand himself. He starts corresponding with the filmmakers while in prison. After a series of back and forth communications, he grants them an interview so that he can profess his innocence and shed light on what really happened. But when they arrive at the prison, he changes his mind and the filmmakers leave empty handed.
As our film ends, Rand is convicted and sent to prison and the families of the victims believe that justice has been served. But no firm conclusion can be drawn. Is Rand really the boogeyman personified? Is he just a pawn for a far more sinister group of individuals? None of these questions are answered but instead, you are left to come up with your own conclusion.
Highly engrossing and suspenseful, Cropsey is one of the best documentaries I've ever seen. You can check it now via NetFlix's Instant Watch feature.
Cortez the Killer