Tuesday, September 28, 2010


I just watched this on hulu today (who has a really awesome movie selection by the way). Anyway, I'm kinda kicking myself that i didn't check this out at the ifc center when i had the chance. This documentary does more than simply cover the cases of missing Staten island children. It also delves in to mental illness, care (and sometimes lack of care) for the mentally ill and urban legends. Filmmakers; Barbara Brancaccio and Joshua Zeman go back to their Staten island neighborhood, to document the case of Jennifer Schweiger who went missing over 20 years ago. As kids the two filmmakers and the other kids from their neighborhood feared the legend of "Cropsey". An urban legend about an escaped mental patient who kidnapped and murdered children (this was often told to them by their parents as a way to keep them from going off in to the woods or to make sure they came home before the sun went down). In the 1970's, their Staten island neighborhood gained a bit of unwanted attention when it became the subject of one of Geraldo Rivera's most famous news stories (before he became a piece a' shit talk show host). Apparently the local mental hospital ("willowbrook") turned out to be one of the worst facilities for the mentally ill. The patients were either neglected or abused, the building itself wasn't taken care of at all, and it was eventually shut down thanks to Rivera's news story. Later on, when filmmakers; Brancaccio and Zeman were kids, the urban legend of "cropsey" became a reality when 13 year old Jennifer Schweiger went missing (and eventually found murdered). As it turns out, the main suspect (Andre Rand), who eventually ended up serving time for the kidnapping (but not the murder) of Schweiger was a former employee at the willbrook mental hospital. Upon Rand's Release, he became the main suspect in the case of ANOTHER missing local child (we eventually learn that there are a few missing children cases linked to Andre Rand), which brings the case of Jennifer Schweiger back in to question. For first time filmmakers, they really go out of their way to get facts and interviews (from people who sometimes don't want to be interviewed), yet they go about it in a way that doesn't makes them annoying (like Michael Moore can be sometimes). I guess the one thing that started to get on my nerves about the film was the music. If the music was used more sparingly throughout the doc instead of (what seemed) like every 5 minutes, it would've worked better. The subject matter of this documentary alone is serious enough. I don't need music telling me how i should feel while I'm watching something about missing/murdered children and mistreated mental health patients. I get it. And now that i think about it, the voice-over got quite irritating at certain points too. But whatever, the subject matter in this documentary is so good, that i was able to kinda block out the little things i didn't like. Normally I'm not a fan of documentaries turned in to movies, but i honestly wouldn't mind a movie made about this. Watching "Cropsey" is almost like watching a real life version of nightmare on elm street or the blair with project (i don't mean to sound so corny, but its true). This documentary has corruption, cover-ups and even touches on cults and devil worshiping. Even if the music and narration kinda gives Cropsey an amateur-ish feel, it still rings of great investigative documentaries like Errol Morris's Thin Blue Line or the more recent Zoo.


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