On August 13th, the Discovery Channel’s Investigation Discovery brings us Cropsey. Its trailer promises that this will be a cool and compelling true-life story. Cropsey is about missing children whose bodies haven’t been found, and ultimately the alleged abductor, Andre Rand. This documentary, supposedly a candid exposé of Staten Island New York’s very own bogeyman, is an amateur’s mess.
Amateur work can be worthwhile, but the key is how high of a quality you expect, and knowledge that amateurs do something out of interest, but haven’t the training for. The bogeyman might be real, but one of the few clear parts of the story is that there’s no physical evidence against their accused Mr. Rand, only the circumstantial type.
Cropsey begins by talking about a bogeyman who lurks in the woods, close enough to families for their children to be forewarned. I was psyched to watch a smart and well-executed film about a ghost story urban legend; about a bogeyman that wasn’t BS. Shortly after the prologue, it turns its attention to an institution, Willowbrook, which Geraldo Rivera’s reported on in 1972 and made into a villain for having warehoused the physically and developmentally disabled. That’s where the wheels fall from the cart. The institution and Mr. Rivera barely relate to this story, except with Willowbrook as a marker for a piece of evidence. The filmmakers linger on the topic for about 20-minutes.
We watch the morose and disturbing stories about five missing Staten Island children, Hank Gafforio, Holly Ann Hughes, Tiahease Jackson, Alice Pereira, and Jennifer Schweiger, their five families’ agony, and the NYPD detectives’ frustrations and guesses over what might have happened, and whether the suspect did what they’re “sure” he did. Nothing is resolved.
I kept watching, waiting for the body of the film to have the thrills that the trailer and the prologue promised. I watched, waiting for things to make sense, and for me to have a reason to pay attention. After the messy and confusing investigation, Cropsey provides mostly speculation and suppositions, but no answers, or satisfaction. I don’t remember having heard a reason for either the name or the title Cropsey! This leaves you as empty as when Mr. Rivera opened Capone’s safe live on TV in 1986 – finding nothing!
This story is chilling because you can connect the children’s photos to the families who still yearn for closure. Confusion, frustration, and a slow pace stand out.
The story resembles the hodgepodge path that detectives walk while investigating, before cleaning up the files in order for lawyers to make sense of it. There’s meager if any reason for the sequence of investigative events that Cropsey shows. If the film were as well executed as the news release, then it might be worth watching. I want to see that film!
If we were to grade this: 2 out of 5 stars.