"The name "Cropsey" is taken from a New York urban legend for which it served as a generic bogeyman moniker. Documentarians Barbara Brancaccio and Josh Zeman spent ten years narrowing in on the Staten Island source of the myth as it emanated from the Willowbrook State School, where mentally ill patients were abused and treated as animals by an unfit staff. After it closed, the abandoned Willowbrook facility became a haven for drug addicts, homeless people, and satin worshipers. Although, at face value, the film might seem situated as some kind of horror film, it is most assuredly a documentary with horrific elements. During the '70s and '80s the disappearances of five children shook the citizens of Staten Island. The film focuses on the case of Andre Rand, a former Willowbrook employee, indicted for kidnapping and murdering 12-year-old Jennifer Schweiger--the only child whose remains were ever discovered. With his crazy-eyed stare, Rand comes across as a textbook face of psychopathic evil. Although the filmmakers were never able to get an interview with Rand, his connection to Willowbrook, where his mother was a patient, makes the cycle of creepiness complete. Mistreatment of Staten Island as a toxic public dumping ground comes across in archival media coverage that reveals a systemic disconnect by local politicians and power brokers. "Cropsey" bridges an essential chapter of American history with a nightmare legend that is still referred to in hushed tones.
Not Rated. 84 mins. (B+) (Four Stars - out of five/no halves)
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