Andre Rand, to most is just another name, but to the people of Staten Island it was the name folklore is made of – a mythical killer that preyed on the weak and wounded. Cropsey explores the man, the myth and the cold hard facts of Rand and the disappearance of 5 mentally challenged children.
The name Cropsey was used as a generic name for this so called urban legend. The film feels like a haze of uncertainty that swallows you up with grainy archival footage, eye witness interviews and a chilling stare from the killer himself. That stare channels Hannibal Lecter hungry for his next victim but with the mystery of The Blair Witch tracking you from an abandoned corner deep in the basement from the depths of a building that like it’s patients, lost it’s way. It all ties the film together as the filmmakers themselves take us on the journey to help solve or at the very least understand the missing person cases that are 20 – 30 years old.
In the same era that Son of Sam terrorized residents comes another “killer” that somehow eluded police for many years. As we watch the story unfold from beginning to end you see it go in a complete circle. A person that cared and cleaned up after the mentally challenged to someone who wanted to rid the world of them all together. Perhaps learning how to gain their trust before making them his next victim – honing his craft. From a killer whose image on the courthouse steps will send a chill up your spine to a Satanic Cult that did unspeakable things never truly being called into question by police. Innocent children being kidnapped at the blink of an eye. A community that wanted closure – but was it the lack of nurture that caused this man to do unspeakable things? That is for you to decide as the case of Andre Rand is laid out for us.
Andre worked at Willowbrook Mental Institution on Staten Island. Not much is known about his upbringing except that his own mother was also in an institution – but as many mental wards in the 70’s 80’s and even 90’s lost funding from local governments they would soon become containers of filth and abuse than centers of care. Eventually Willowbrook, like most large mental wards, was shut down. Leaving those enclosed behind those cold hard walls to fend for themselves – but often some patients would return. Maybe because they had no where else to go or they knew no other way. They would live in the tunnels in a strange underground society. In some ways they could be seen as a cult of instability. The conditions in these homes were often horrific. Walking through one seemed like a horror movie, not because of those who were in it but the atmospheric conditions of a larger than life architectural building that would swallow one up rather than nurture it.
The film paints an unsettling picture of how one man slowly and deliberately chose his victims, all children, to rid them of their disabilities, and the world. Cropsey would be described as wielding a bloody axe or a hook for a hand in urban legends. But putting legend aside, Rand’s most dangerous weapon was his mind, and his intent. This documentary shows two sides of Rand, one being a drooling almost empty shell of a man capable of the unspeakable. Then the another side – which is a look inside a very manipulative, possibly even intelligent man on some level.
Join the filmmakers as they set out to tell us how an urban legend that was meant to keep kids out of abandoned buildings and get home before dark turned into a chilling tale of real life horror. Staten Island was known as a place to toss things aside, a mafia body dump, large landfills hiding the secrets of 8 million people and in this case, people tucked away in a dark mental institution to fester and rot. So as you watch this film and see eerie pieces of the puzzle put together, ask yourself this – could he be the maintenance man at work, the guy carrying out your groceries or even your next door neighbor? Could they be, Cropsey?
I give Cropsey 4 Creeps out of 5.
By Tim Canton
CROPSEY is opening in Kansas City at the Screenland Crown Center on 8/6/10. Click here for more information.