I’ve discussed before the fact that I avoid doing Impressions on certain types of media that I consume. Sometimes it’s because I worry about how the audience will feel about them, other times it’s because I question my own “expertise” when it comes to certain things. I, like what I can safely assume is most Americans, like True Crime. I go through “kicks” in my life where for weeks, even months, I will consume a lot of media in specific genres like sci-fi. True Crime is one of the things I get on kicks with. As such I have done a lot with True Crime (more than other people, less than some) yet I’ve avoided it so far on my blog. I feel like I am cutting off part of my interests though and sharing that with you. So with that long warning, I present my first Impressions on something with True Crime.
I recently had the chance to watch Cropsey; it was a 2009 documentary which seemed to get a lot of buzz a few years ago. I was late to the party (missing it both when it came out and when people in my circle were starting talking about it), but I was curious. The premise of it was what truly intrigued me. Cropsey was sold as a look at the more regional urban legend of “Cropsey” and the real-life kidnappings that happened in the area with the rise of the legend. Cropsey is our fictional character while Andre Rand is presented as the real-life boogeyman that fueled the legend.
I want to make it clear I am not going to attempt to say what I think as far as the actual case is concerned, instead I want to look at the movie. I am not an expert, nor am I the type of person that has thought about wetting my feet with my own True Crime writing (yet), so that is not what I want to do with this Impressions.
The idea behind this movie, I thought, was excellent. I took a class with a section on Urban Legends, how regions and larger scales develop them, and when real life plays a role in them. The execution does not exactly live up to the hype. They start the movie talking about the Cropsey legend, the development of Staten Island happened, and a hospital in the area. Then they bring up children that were going missing and the hunting of and later conviction of Andre Rand. Both of these parts of the movie are not poorly done. However, they aren’t fleshed out fully.
It feels almost like they thought that just making a straightforward True Crime documentary would not do well, so they wanted to add another angle, once they found one they then attempted to force the two together. I am not saying this is what happened, only that it feels that way while watching it. The Cropsey legend is almost completely forgotten once Rand is brought up, other than to make vague references to real life monsters inspiring our fictional ones. Little legwork is done to say that Rand did have an impact on the legend, or that the legend was even as popular as the movie claims.
The other issue is because some of the movie is spent focused on Cropsey the Rand case feels rushed. There is a decent timeline of victims, though details seem to be missing, covering the case leaves a bit to be desired though. They bring up the fact that Rand seems to have mental health issues and that he might not have gotten the best treatment with our justice system, but they don’t dig much into this.
There is also a vague mention to people saying it was connected to Satanism. This is something that a lot of people believe when horrific crimes happen, but most people know there is no evidence of it. It seems like bringing up these rumors was shoe-horned in to give way to a tense moment in the film itself.
I want to be clear I did not hate Cropsey, I would even say it’s a solid True Crime documentary. I was, however, let down because I feel the idea was much better than the result. I really wanted to watch a comprehensive look at a real case and how it may or may not have impacted an Urban Legend, even a regional one. I think this is an excellent idea for a True Crime doc if the movie itself can fulfill that promise. In the wake of this movie not living up to that promise, I would have liked to skip the “Cropsey” part and instead had a more comprehensive look at the Rand case.
At the end of the day, if you are a True Crime fan and you haven’t seen this, I would recommend it. I put the same warnings on it that I would any other True Crime movie, the content might be upsetting, especially because it deals with children. While it doesn’t exactly live up to the promise of the idea, it does attempt to go places other True Crime movies do not, and I give them credit for that. I am curious about The Killing Season which features Joshua Zeman who was behind Cropsey.
What are your thoughts? Had you seen Cropsey? How did you feel about it and what it attempted to do? Do you think it was more successful than I’ve given it credit for?