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Director: Barbara Brancaccio, Josh Zeman

Cast: Donna Cutugno, Karen Schweiger

Staten Island filmmakers Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio reveal how an urban legend conjured up to keep kids from exploring abandoned buildings became a horrifying reality when a mysterious drifter began abducting children in their tight-knit urban neighborhood. Growing up, Zeman and Brancaccio were deluged with terrifying tales of Cropsy, a murderous mental


Staten Island filmmakers Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio reveal how an urban legend conjured up to keep kids from exploring abandoned buildings became a horrifying reality when a mysterious drifter began abducting children in their tight-knit urban neighborhood. Growing up, Zeman and Brancaccio were deluged with terrifying tales of Cropsy, a murderous mental patient prone to snatching children off the streets and taking them to the derelict buildings that were once part of the Willowbrook Mental Institution. Some claimed Crospey had a hook for a hand; others claimed his weapon of choice was a large axe. In 1987, that legend crossed the boundary into reality when 13-year-old Jennifer Schweiger vanished without a trace. Her disappearance sent shockwaves of fear through the community, but it was only the first. Before long Crospey had a name: Andre Rand. When a photo of a handcuffed Rand was released in the press, the public didn't need a conviction to know he was the man who had been preying on their children. In this film, Zeman and Brancaccio go back to the scene of the crimes to search for clues, and speak with the locals about how the case has haunted them for decades.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Jason Buchanan
The concept of an urban legend manifesting itself in reality may sound like the plot of a Wes Craven film, but in Cropsey, it's just one of many chilling peculiarities surrounding the bizarre case of Andre Rand, a convicted kidnapper whose very existence offers proof positive that there is indeed such a thing as a boogeyman. A documentary with the atmosphere and tone of a horror film, Cropsey will no doubt burrow its way under your skin as it explores fears both real and imagined. Growing up in Staten Island, Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio were terrified by stories about Cropsey, an escaped mental patient who would snatch children off the streets under the shroud of darkness. Years later, when Zeman and Brancaccio were in their teens, actual children from their tight-knit communities began disappearing. The media quickly singled out Rand, a former custodian at Staten Island's Willowbrook mental institution, as the prime suspect. All of a sudden, Cropsey had an actual name, and his drooling face could be seen on the cover of every newspaper. Now Cropsey was real. But who was Andre Rand? Every community has its own urban legend, but the vast majority of those creepy, cautionary tales are precisely what the name implies -- unverified stories that have been handed down through generations for the sole purpose of keeping children out of trouble. When the Staten Island locals got their first glimpse of Andre Rand, the drifter with the distant gaze was branded guilty before he ever spoke a word. Originally convicted of kidnapping 12-year-old Jennifer Schweiger after her nude body was discovered in a shallow grave near his campsite on the grounds of Willowbrook in 1987, Rand would go back on trial over 20 years later to face charges for kidnapping seven-year-old Holly Ann Hughes in 1981. Shortly thereafter, authorities began to suspect that Rand may have had a hand in at least two other unsolved disappearances. In Cropsey, Zeman and Brancaccio have found the perfect opportunity to create a real-life Blair Witch Project -- a horror film masquerading as a documentary, set against the backdrop of an eerie location (Willowbrook) and punctuated with interviews that simultaneously address our suspicions and reflect our outrage. Veteran television reporters and retired police detectives recall the tension that gripped the community as they awaited word of Jennifer Schweiger's ultimate fate, and frightened interviewees refuse to speak on camera for fear they'll incur the wrath of satanic cults. Editors Anita Gabrosek, Todd Holmes, and Tom Patterson deserve special recognition for artfully integrating old news reports with contemporary footage to create a melancholy mystery as gripping as any fictional tale, and director/producer Zeman skillfully paces out the unsettling revelations -- and there are many -- for maximum impact while making the facts in the mystery both clear and concise. Clips of Geraldo Rivera's career-launching exposé of Willowbrook serve as a concrete means of connecting a localized crime to a national news story, offering graphic glimpses of the conditions in the hospital in order to provide a disturbing look into Rand's mysterious background. Alas, the biggest problem with Cropsey is Zeman and Brancaccio themselves. Occasionally, their presence in the story is distracting, especially during a later scene that finds the mugging duo on a nervous midnight excursion into Willowbrook. Any reporter will admit that the moment you inject yourself into the story your credibility starts to crumble, and Zeman and Brancaccio come dangerously close to sabotaging their own film in a scene that seems to have been shot with the sole purpose of fraying our nerves instead of exploring the facts. Fortunately, an unexpected encounter in the darkened woods takes the scene in an altogether different direction, reminding us of how urban legends can evolve over time, and essentially bringing the story full circle by holding a mirror to the filmmakers' own early experiences with the legend. In a movie full of creepy coincidences, it may be the one that offers the least amount of surprise, though it also prevents a cheap gag from contaminating the entire endeavor. For anyone who has ever been compelled by an urban legend, scared by a horror film, or fascinated by a missing-person case, Cropsey is the kind of film that explores some of our deepest societal fears by examining our compulsive attraction to all things tragic and morbid. It isn't a pleasant journey -- nor one that is likely to be soon forgotten -- though it is a sobering, skillfully produced reminder that sometimes fact can be far more terrifying than fiction.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Vicious Circle Films
Region Code:
[Wide Screen, Color]
[Dolby Digital Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround]
Sales rank:

Special Features

30 minutes of never-before-seen material; Exclusive press clips

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Donna Cutugno Participant
Karen Schweiger Participant
David Novarro Participant
Ralph Aquino Participant

Technical Credits
Barbara Brancaccio Director,Producer
Josh Zeman Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Pete Beaudreau Editor
Chad Davidson Cinematographer
Corbin Day Associate Producer
Tammy Douglas Sound/Sound Designer
Anita Gabrosek Editor
Jeffrey Kusama-Hinte Executive Producer
Alexander Lasaranko Score Composer
Jeffrey Levy-Hinte Executive Producer
Maria Elena Lopez-Frank Associate Producer
Jawad Metni Camera Operator
Zachary Mortensen Producer
Tom Patterson Editor
Todd Tiberi Associate Producer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Cropsey
1. Introduction [2:02]
2. Opening Credits [1:36]
3. Who Is Cropsey? [4:12]
4. The Last Great Disgrace [1:52]
5. Jennifer Schweiger [7:03]
6. Grisly Discovery [5:02]
7. Holly Ann Hughes [6:22]
8. A Letter From Rand [3:51]
9. Hank Gafforio [3:18]
10. Tiahease Jackson [4:03]
11. Hughes Trial Week 2 [2:07]
12. Differing Views [3:38]
13. Revisiting Willowbrook [2:31]
14. Hughes Trial Week 3 [3:26]
15. Alice Pereira [5:06]
16. The Church of the Process [4:32]
17. Seaview at Night [2:15]
18. Rand Won't Testify [2:59]
19. Letters More Bizarre [4:11]
20. Reverend Muskett [6:33]
21. The Verdict [3:59]
22. You Choose [3:43]


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