Cropsey Directed by: Barbara Brancaccio, Joshua Zeman Cast: Donna Cutugno, Karen Schweiger Running Time: 1 hr 25 mins Rating: Unrated Release Date: July 16, 2010
PLOT: A documentary about a Staten Island urban legend come to life. Filmmakers Brancaccio and Zeman examine their childhood boogeyman, Cropsey, and discover there is some truth to the legend when they examine the case of suspected child killer Andre Rand.
WHO'S IT FOR? People who have been watching the news and wondering where Kyron Horman could be. Anyone who wondered how Jaycee Dugard managed to remain hidden for 18 years.
EXPECTATIONS: Billed as a "horror documentary", I was expecting something along the lines of the Blair Witch Project. I was totally off.
Donna Cutugno as herself: One of the most memorable of the many faces in Cropsy, Cutungo leads a group called "Friends of Jennifer". Jennifer Schweiger was a 12 year old with downs syndrome who disappeared from her home in Staten Island. It created the sort of media firestorm that should be familiar to anyone who watches local news. Cutugno lead many searches for Jennifer, through the woods of Staten Island and continued to be obsessed with her case as well as the cases of the other children Andre Rand would be accused of killing. Since she's neither related to nor even knew Jennifer before she disappeared, it becomes a mystery why she's so obsessed with this case for so many years. She's an interesting character. Score: 7
Karen Schweiger as herself: The mother of the missing Jennifer, Schweiger's initially seen through old press footage. Later we see her in person, a woman still looking for justice and closure for her missing daughter twenty years later. She only speaks to the filmmakers briefly, but she still seems determined after all this time. Score: 6
TALKING: Though some of the most startling revelations come from the interviews, Cropsey is a well structured film that has a definite dramatic narrative. The narration is well written and kept me interested in what would happen next. Score: 7
SIGHTS: The film utilizes a mixture of footage; interviews and new court video are shot by the filmmakers, but there's also a wealth of archival footage from TV news. It's all strung together well, they manage to keep everything the same aspect ratio without squeezing anything. It may seem minor but I'm very picky about aspect ratio. For a doc about crime, it looks good. Score: 7
SOUNDS: The music at the beginning was a little too creepy horror show for my taste. I expected to hear a creaking door and spooky laugh from a sound effects tape. But then it calms down and smooths out. Score: 5
BEST SCENE: A preacher who once allowed Rand to stay at his home makes some startling revelations about things he claimed Rand confessed. Is it true? It sounds credible. It's hard to know.
ENDING: There's a bit of a serpentine story here, what begins as a story about an urban legend moves into a question about a potential serial killer and finally asks, what's scarier than a man who kills a child? Without evil or the devil or anything supernatural. Maybe the capacity for human evil is the scariest thing out there.
QUESTIONS: Was Andre Rand responsible for all those murders? Where are the bodies of the other children? Will we ever know for sure?
REWATCHABILITY: Though a heavy subject matter, it's still an interesting film that would be interesting.
This film was not what I expected at all, but I did enjoy it. The beginning was a bit rough, the urban legend section is the weakest part of the film. But once the movie starts going into Willowbrook Mental Institution, a terrible place where children with mental disabilities were kept, and abused, it really becomes fascinating. Unlike a CSI episode, there is no resolution, no certainty at the end. Instead we watch a real story, about questions that have no clear answer. I was reminded of David Fincher's Zodiac, how I went in thinking I would see a whodunnit but ended up with a meditation on obsession. There's a similar journey in this film. You may not get answers, but you may find interesting questions.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10