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A documentary with good investigative journalism

Cropsey: Rates a B-.
Courtesy photo

I enjoy documentaries, but I’ve seen a lot of boring ones lately. That’s why I was happy about catching Cropsey.

The filmmakers from Staten Island talk about an urban legend called Cropsey. This is the name for an escaped mental patient that kills children in the area. Some claim he uses an axe, others thing he has a hook for a hand.

These are mostly ghost stories told at Boy Scout and summer camps, but enough children have disappeared around there to make people believe the myth. And,either stay far away from the abandoned mental institution – or seek it out.

When a girl is kidnapped in the mid-'80s, it seems maybe there is something to this Cropsey. It’s one of many mentally disabled kids that have disappeared from the area over the years.

The old mental institution has graffiti on the walls. Some even claim Satanic rituals happen in there. That makes the filmmakers night-time trip there really creepy.

Even in daylight, the place looks creepy. It’s shaped like the Amityville Horror house, and…well, there’s that creepy music that always plays when they show it.

A “drifter” that has a number of mental problems, camps out in areas around the place. He apparently worked there in the '60s, too.

The documentary then becomes more about the trials, and with a town that’s quick to point the finger at someone, he’s convicted and sent to Sing Sing. It’s really weird, because there’s just circumstantial evidence against this guy, and not even a lot of that.

The first half of the movie was a lot more interesting than the second half. By the end of it I thought it could’ve been edited down to a 15 minute segment on 60 Minutes and been a terrific piece. Heck, most episodes of Forensic Files are better than the story here. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t interesting.

I enjoyed hearing the locals speculate. One young kid even talked about how the drifter once got a van and talked 11 kids into going with him to Newark Airport before bringing them back. The movie never explains why he wasn’t charged for that (I found later he spent almost a year in jail for unlawful imprisonment).

There’s an interesting piece a young reporter named Geraldo Rivera did in the mid-'70s about the mental institution and the squalid conditions the children there lived in.

Rivera may not have found anything in Al Capone’s vaults, but when he opens the doors of this place – wow. The video they show from that is something you’ll never forget.

Overall, this was a good piece of investigative journalism.

I’m giving it a B-.