July 16th, 2010 by McCann

Cropsey_Poster_Laurels_WebCROPSEY is the name Staten Island parents give the bogeyman who will take children in the night and chop them up if they go venturing off into the spooky woodlands and the abandoned psychiatric hospital. This tale however rings true for two filmmakers when several children go missing and the body of one is found in the woods. A man is convicted of her kidnapping but not her murder, this man is Andre Rand, and to the people of Staten Island; he’s the real CROPSEY.

Filmmakers Barbara Brancaccio and Joshua Zeman, whose previous credits include co-producing the amazing MYSTERIOUS SKIN and production managing the doco FULL TILT BOOGIE, try to meld folklore with an urban crime story, blending fact with myth and legend.

Even though the film has a lot more heart and soul and in depth coverage of the emotional toll that crimes against children have on families, I came away feeling like I had just watched an extended TV coverage of some cold case murder.

What the victims went through, and still go through today is hard to comprehend but we do know they want closure after 20 years. So do we as an audience and what would have made this doco more rewarding would have been for the filmmakers to find some resolution. But where was it? We never find out if Andre Rand did in fact kill all –or any- of the kids. Many people in the film assume he did, but for what reason or according to which explanation? Did he act alone, or was he part of a satanic cult? Was he mentally unstable and a victim as much as perpetrator? So many possibilities are presented but none give closure: “You Decide” is all we’re left with.

I was left feeling that the filmmakers were in a rush to finish the doco and just get something out, instead of sitting on it for a few years to find facts over speculation that would highlight another victim or give closure to the previous victims’ families.

Technically the film is well put together, but the handling of the subject matter comes off very run-of-the-mill. If the filmmakers wanted to give me a sense of what it’s like to not have all the answers and what it feels like to just not know “why” then they achieved their goal. If they set out to highlight urban myths of Staten Island they certainly revealed one. If this film was meant to help the families of the victims feel vindicated, then they missed the mark. In the end it left me confused.

My rating? “You Decide”


Dirs:  Barbara Brancaccio & Joshua Zeman

Format: Mixed

Running Time: 84min

Screening: Revelation Film Festival Sun, 18th July,  1:30 pm @ The Astor Cinemas

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