Coming to DVD tomorrow, Tuesday, May 10: CROPSEY
Barbara Brancaccio and Joshua Zeman’s often creepy revisiting of an urban legend from their Staten Island youth had its world premiere at Tribeca in 2009. It went on to a scrappy DIY theatrical and festival run for the past two years, and is now coming out on DVD.
The Cropsey legend involved a child-snatching escaped mental patient who had taken up residence in State Island’s dilapidated Willowbrook Mental Institution. Though dismissed by most as a Boogeyman tale, Cropsey seemed to become all-too-real when a pre-teen with Down syndrome went missing in 1987, a disappearance that soon became linked with four other cases of missing children. The filmmakers return to Staten Island (and, in a BLAIR WITCH-like sequence, to Willowbrook) seeking the truth behind the urban legend. While I’ve often taken issue with directors inserting themselves into their films, Brancaccio and Zeman are among the rare filmmakers who have a strong enough argument for why they should be onscreen, and, a few indulgences aside, generally make it work. The production as a whole is atmospheric, well-shot, and wonderfully paced, with disturbing revelations that keep the audience just on the right side of unsettled. Other documentarians could learn from CROPSEY how to entertain audiences while still offering them illumination.