Monday, September 29, 2014

Horror Thoughts ‘14—Cropsey (2009) ***½

NR, 84 min.
Directors: Barbara Brancaccio, Joshua Zeman
Writer: Joshua Zeman
Featuring: Joshua Zeman, Barbara Brancaccio, Dr. Bill Ellis, Dorothy D’Elletto, Karen Schweiger, Donna Cutugno, Ralph Aquino, Bobby Jenson, Andre Rand, Jim Callahan, Theresa Doyle

So we open Horrorfest this year with a documentary about a real life horror tale of an urban legend that turned out to be true, however the truth of it all is impossible to determine. Growing up on Staten Island, the filmmakers remember stories of Cropsey, an insane killer that would snatch kids if they were out too late in places they didn’t belong. Only once they were adults did they learn that these were not merely stories designed to make sure kids were home and safe when their parents wanted them home.

The island suburb of New York City learned of Andre Rand when he took his last victim in 1987. After his conviction it came to light that there were seven other children since 1973 whose disappearances matched Rand’s MO. All the children had learning disabilities. Rand had worked for a state school that a young Geraldo Rivera had exposed in the early 80s as a dumping ground for children nobody wanted. His mother’s mental struggles tied Rand to these victims long before they were even born.

There is every reason to believe that Rand is responsible for these disappearances, but there’s no real evidence. He’s convicted of another kidnapping, but not murder because the body was never found, to keep him in jail for life. Still there’s a surprising lack of evidence. The documentary becomes a vague study how we need the fantasy of horror to explain the reality of it. Without any evidence against Rand, what really fuels any justification of his conviction? He needs to be the monster people heard about as children, because if he isn’t, all those childhood nightmares will follow them into adulthood.

The filmmakers don’t really focus on the possible injustice that has occurred, because that’s not really what this is about. Rand surely seems to be quite demented. There are people who had contact with Rand at the time the last victims body was found, and they have plausible reason to believe he is the killer. The history of the closed mental hospital ground upon which her body was found and upon which Rand had lived in the woods is just as horrific as any crime Rand might’ve perpetrated. The treatment of the patients revealed by Rivera might possibly be the greater crime contained in this doc. Perhaps we need the boogey man to shield us from our own contentedness not to know about such mass atrocities.

Watch the movie in its entirety below.

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