Monday, November 8, 2010

Spiritual Sequel: "Cropsey"

I am a West Coast kid. My childhood may have been erratic, bouncing from one place to the next, winding up running around all over the country. But in the end I was born in East LA and that is where I live to this day. So I was totally unfamiliar with a lot of the urban legends that had grown in the East Coast. From my perspective Cropsey was a character in a little-known slasher movie called "The Burning" and had zero basis in reality. But while I was digging deeper into horror films and how they got made I ran into the notion that the Cropsey character started out as an urban legend, a spook that kids in East Coast camps used in tales told around the fire to scare the hell out of one another. Until recently, that was as far as I thought the history of the character went.

Now, full disclosure time, this doc isn't about the real Cropsey. There is no real Cropsey. The filmmakers have drawn a tenuous corollary between an urban legend that they all grew up with and a case involving missing and murdered children that spread out over two decades. In doing so they have made a film that plays on the innate fears many of us still have left over from our childhoods, while making a larger point about assigning blame in a case that seems unfathomable to all involved. The film combines the best parts of a true crime documentary with the boogeyman aesthetics of low-budget horror.

I came to the film as a horror fan and a fan of "The Burning". If you're looking for a real-life regurgitaton of that nasty little flick you're in for some serious disappointment. However, any fan of horror ought to get a real jolt from this film. The filmmakers chose a deliberate pacing, drawing out the film's central mystery to the breaking point, going from the stuff of campfire ghost stories to the true horror of a town's past comign back to haunt them.

The only point in the film where it begins to feel a little too self-aware for its own good comes 2/3 of the way into the film. At this point the two filmmakers have decided to explore local ruins, gutted psych wards left standing in the film's Staten Island setting. One's mind immediately draws a line between thisact and the style of "The Blair Witch Project", bringing too much obvious self-involvement on the part of the people making the flick. However, when they stumble upon some local kids hanging out in the same area, working themselves up, trying to spook each other, the film's discussion of urban legends and the reality of the horrors in a town like this come into sharp focus.

I can't stress this enough. If you like horror and true crime, exploitation and low budget docs, you're gonna dug this one. Definitely recommended for fans of the Paradise Lost films, Zodiac, Memories of Murder, Blair Witch, The Burning, etc.


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