Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cropsey (2009)

Cropsey is a creepy documentary about what happens when folk lore crashes into to reality. It’s not the sort of film you want to watch alone late at night with all the lights out.

The title derives from the name of a mad killer said to roam through various parts of lower New York State and connected parts of New Jersey Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Supposedly a well to do man, he went mad for some reason ands began to kill children. It’s the sort of tale you tell around a camp fire.

The film chronicles the events on the Staten Island in New York where the Cropsey Maniac was said to wander the wooded areas around the closed Willobrook psychiatric center and attached grounds (It’s a huge complex of buildings and tunnels in the middle of hundreds of wooded acres, now all abandoned). Of course it was just a tale… until someone started to notice that kids had been disappearing from all around the area.

The film focuses on Andre Rand an odd little man who seemed to be around several of the people who disappeared over the years. Rand was eventually convicted for the kidnapping of two of the children, but he is a suspect in at least five more. The film tells us the about the disappearances, how the police investigated and came up with theories (Satanism?) and how Rand came into view again and again. It’s the story of the filmmakers trying to get to the bottom of what actually happened and if Rand could have been the only one involved.

This movie creeped me out. I was watching this alone at night with the lights off and the film just played me like a violin as spins out it’s tale of murder and madness perfectly. It’s the sort of feeling that all of the pseudo-documentary horror films try to create but never manage to do. Of course this is a true story instead of a made up one, but the feel of the film is that of a great campfire story.

It’s story that begins as fiction, changes to reality. From there the reality begins shifting as you are told a tale that may or may not involve the subject of the film. Rand for much of the film seems to be a sad little man, however as you get farther and farther down the rabbit hole what is true and what is possible begins to change. Maybe he isn’t as innocent as you may have thought…then again even when we get to the end there are still doubts pieces don’t make sense (how did a body suddenly reappear in a place searched by the police when their suspect was in custody?)

I loved this movie a great deal. It’s a wonderful little true life horror story.

The recently released DVD includes about 30 minutes of “additional” scenes. Some are expanded sequences that appear in the film and some are completely new material. I wish the story of the girl who believes she had a long running stalking by Rand had been able to have been in the film proper. It is chilling, but as the filmmakers said, they have no proof it was actually Rand so they couldn’t include it. Also intriguing is a discussion between the directors who are forced to deal with the fact that by asking questions they maybe injuring people since one man ended up in therapy as a result.

If you want to be scared see this film.

A winner of the Tribeca Documentary award in 2009 the film would be perfectly paired with this year’s Grave Encounters which is also set in an abandoned institution.


  1. Gotta add Cropsey, Clownhouse, & Nude Nuns with Big Guns to my to see list!

  2. I finally saw this maybe a month ago but I really enjoyed it. A very good doc.