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Across the middle of the Island lies a section of ancient forest known as the Greenbelt. Bordering this forest is a boy scout scamp, and an old tuberculosis ward. As kids we used to roam around these grounds trying to scare each other with stories about Cropsey.
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What is a Cropsey? A Cropsey is the name given to a bogeyman used to frighten children by way of safe education (stay away from that place/that man/them woods etc). When Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio grew up they learnt that their Cropsey was in fact real. Or was he?
Andre Rand was a convicted child kidnapper from Staten Island who is strongly suspected to have committed a number of child kidnappings and murders between 1972 and 1987. Most of the missing children were special needs cases, and with Rand having close ties to Willowbrook State School, a sorry place for the mentally ill thats conditions were exposed by Geraldo Rivera's infamous documentary in 1972, and his known living arrangements out in the Greenbelt Woods around Willowbrook, he seemed the likely culprit for sure.
Zeman and Brancaccio do a sterling job of piecing together all available evidence and reports involving Rand, including interviews with family and friends of the missing children and the detectives who worked on the case. They even have epistle contact with Rand as they try to arrange a meeting with their very own bogeyman. The footage and stories involving Willowbrook are skin crawlingly effective, the visits to the ruins of the place equally creepy.
We constantly see pictures of the missing children, and that of the only one who was found, murdered, close to one of Rand's makeshift campsites. These are real horrors in this horror film, and they cut the psyche like a knife. Unfortunately the makers lose a little focus in the final third, as more revelations and accusations enter the debate some of the unease wears off, the doc gets chocked as it were, and some of the harsh realities are replaced by fanciful supposition.
Still, in the main this is a tremendous documentary, challenging and unbiased. It could just have been Zeman and Brancaccio walking around interviewing the usual suspects et al, but they go deeper than that to leave a lasting impression on both the mind and the soul. 8.5/10
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