Monday, February 18, 2013

Cropsey (2009, documentary)

Yesterday after I had written that post about Dreams of a Life, I realized that I had plumb forgot about another good documentary I had seen several weeks ago and had meant to write about it.

From the official Cropsey website:
Growing up on Staten Island, filmmakers Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio had often heard the legend of ‘Cropsey.’ For the kids in their neighborhood, Cropsey was the escaped mental patient who lived in the old abandoned Willowbrook Mental Institution, who would come out late at night and snatch children off the streets. Sometimes Cropsey had a hook for a hand, other times he wielded a bloody axe, but it didn’t matter, Cropsey was always out there, lurking in the shadows, waiting to get them.

Later as teenagers, the filmmakers assumed Cropsey was just an urban legend: a cautionary tale used to keep them out of those abandoned buildings and stop them from doing all those things that teenagers like to do. That all changed in the summer of 1987 when a 12-year-old girl with Down syndrome, named Jennifer Schweiger, disappeared from their community. That was the summer all the kids from Staten Island discovered that their urban legend was real.
This is one of those truly creepy cases where an urban legend turns out to be real, or in this case, becomes real.  The documentary delves into the search for Jennifer Schwieger, which turns into an investigation into the cases of five missing girls.  It also covers the history of Willowbrook Mental Institution.  Some of the most spooky scenes are of the filmmakers venturing into the tunnels beneath the asylum just to see what they could see.*  And finally, it reaches into the murky background of Andre Rand, the man who turned out to be the real Cropsey.

Like just about everything these days, I saw it on Netflix.  Should be a riveting 84 minutes for anyone interested in urban legends and/or true crime documentaries.

*My main thought when I saw this part was, "The idiots are unarmed.  But I guess since they're showing the film, they must have gotten lucky and survived."

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