Director: Joshua Zeman, Barbara Brancaccio
During the 1980s, Staten Island kids were told the urban legend of "Cropsey," a child-killer said to stalk the remains of the remaining buildings of the abandoned Willowbrook Mental Institution. Turns out, though, that Cropsey was real, and thought to be a former Willowbrook employee named Andre Rand, who was pinned to the disappearances of five children. Cropsey details those cases and, in the process, makes Freddy Krueger's track record seem like child's play.
The boogeyman is real, kids, and this film reminds us of that without flinching. Child abduction and murder is inherently disturbing, of course, but surprisingly the film's unsettling pièce de résistance has nothing to do with homicide. An argument is made that Rand's fractured mental state traces back to his days working inside Willowbrook, a decrepit hellhole where handicapped patients sat in filth and underwent extensive neglect.
Geraldo Rivera famously documented the institution's poor practices back in 1972 in an exposé titled Willowbrook: The Last Disgrace, shown raw and uncut in Cropsey. It'll make you hate mankind for a good hour or two. —MB