Cropsey (2009)

86 mins Minutes
Documentary, Horror
Barbara Brancaccio
Joshua Zeman
Joshua Zeman (written by)

Northwest Military's Review

Rev. Adam McKinney on August 10th, 2010

Cropsey is a documentary that examines the concept of the bogeyman, first as legend, next as reality, and lastly as a combination of the two.

In Staten Island in the ‘70s and ‘80s, a story was passed around by local children concerning a man who lived in the woods. Often, this man was known as Cropsey; sometimes, he had a hook for a hand, or maybe he carried an axe. As legend went, Cropsey roamed the woods and suburban streets at night, plucking up little children.

Similar stories were told everywhere, and continue to be told, though they usually end with a good scare around a campfire. The legend of Cropsey became all too real, however, with the 1987 disappearance of a young girl named Jennifer.

The story, and the documentary, starts in 1972, with the expose of the Willowbrook Mental Institution on Staten Island. A young Geraldo Rivera did a report on the grotesque treatment of the inmates of Willowbrook, which eventually led to WIllowbrook's closure in 1987. In the film, we see footage of the hospital and the sad, tormented souls forced to live in their own filth as they rock and moan in agony.

After the closure of Willowbrook, many inmates and employees returned to the old grounds, where they lived in tents or in the tunnels beneath the facility. One such employee was Andre Rand, the man who would later be convicted in the kidnapping of Jennifer, though her body had yet to be found.

Once Rand was incarcerated, Jennifer's body was found in a shallow grave near the lean-to where Rand was known to sleep. And so, despite no physical evidence (and with the aid of a particularly damning photograph of Rand, drooling, as he is led to a squad car), the former Willowbrook employee and drifter was blamed for Jennifer's kidnapping and murder. Later, he would become the scapegoat for several more missing children, whose disappearances span 15 years.

Cropsey explores what precious little details there are surrounding these disappearances. Besides Jennifer, no bodies have ever been found. Andre Rand maintains his innocence after all of these years, but refuses to speak to press, police, and even at his own trial.

There is much talk in Cropsey about how terrible it is, not just for one's child to die, but for the body to never be found. Parents of missing children talk about the painful lack of closure that comes from not knowing where your child is, and not even knowing if the man behind bars is responsible.

Theories are bandied about: Did Andre Rand act alone? Was he framed? Was he a pawn in a ring of child-sacrificing Satan-worshipers?

The facts and misconceptions and wild conjecture build up to a Zodiac-esque fervor. But even though the Zodiac killings were never solved, much like the disappearances examined in Cropsey, the case was somehow more satisfying. The Zodiac was a famously vocal madman-the perfect embodiment of a sneering, cackling villain.

In the case of Andre Rand, or whoever committed these atrocities, there is so very little noise. Only the deafening silence of a wrong answer, and the possibility of ever-lurking evil. – Three out of four stars

[Capitol Theater, Aug. 10 6:30 p.m., Aug. 11 9 p.m., Aug. 12 6:30 p.m., Aug. 16 6:30 p.m., Aug. 17 9 p.m., Aug. 18 6:30 p.m., Aug. 19 2:30 and 9 p.m., $3-$8, 206 Fifth Ave. SE, Olympia, 360.754.6670,]

comments powered by Disqus