Critics Consensus

Riveting and bone-chillingly creepy, Cropsey manages to be one of the best documentaries and one of the best horror movies of the year.



Total Count: 44


Audience Score

User Ratings: 2,672
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Cropsey Photos

Movie Info

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.

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Critic Reviews for Cropsey

All Critics (44) | Top Critics (15) | Fresh (40) | Rotten (4)

  • Disturbing and flavorful.

    Mar 3, 2014 | Full Review…
    New York Daily News
    Top Critic
  • Cropsey is a creepy documentary with all the elements of a horror film about a demented serial killer, and an extra ingredient: This one is real.

    Mar 3, 2014 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • This disturbing true-crime documentary takes its name from a local bogeyman that video makers Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio were warned about when they were growing up on Staten Island.

    Mar 3, 2014 | Full Review…
  • A documentary that delves into what happens when the ghost stories you told as kids, the stuff of urban legends, seem to come true.

    Jul 29, 2010 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • The story of the unsolved abductions and the man who might have become the scapegoat for a community is troubling enough. No big-screen trickery is required.

    Jul 8, 2010 | Full Review…
  • Cropsey has all the trappings of a true-crime TV special, but with an undercurrent of cultural exposition that is intelligent, profound and unsettling.

    Jul 6, 2010

    John Anderson

    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Cropsey

  • May 05, 2018
    Decent, but a little slow.
    Super Reviewer
  • Apr 06, 2015
    The good thing about this urban-legend-hunters documentary is that it is creepy and unsettling as hell, and it proves to be a fascinating blend of doc and horror film; the bad thing, however, is that the lack of answers is really frustrating and everything is left too inconclusive.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Nov 25, 2014
    This film has been commended for its horror genre type narrative surrounding the urban legend of Cropsey, but what documentarians Zeman and Brancaccio only serve to accomplish is scare themselves. The urban legend surrounds a creepy, somewhat crazed killer, who snatches children for their bad behavior. The two point to this urban legend, in conjunction with the case of Andre Rand, a former care worker at the closed Willowbrook Mental Institution, who was accused of the abduction and murder of four children on Staten Island. The actual mental facility of Willowbrook was closed for abuse from workers and unseemly conditions, its ghosts haunting the hallowed halls and lending shelter to a supposed clan of former workers and residents. Though we do not see these people, nor are they interviewed, Zeman and Brancaccio want us to believe they exist, as well as that Rand is the eponymous boogeyman Cropsey. While these two definitely frighten the viewer with the real story of the closed institution, and intrigue us with a narrative of a misanthropic clan of hermits out in the woods, their link between Rand and Cropsey is tentative. Rand's case is picked apart here, and subjected to questioning by the documentarians, witnesses, the defense, and local residents of the adjoining town. The film doesn't serve to solve any larger mystery, but instead prods at the past in order to show "Hey, this is pretty creepy, right?" It drags on forever, trying to show inconsistencies with the case but also claiming Rand could also be the killer. The film ends ambiguously, which I absolutely hated, since this is supposedly a story of a child killer. They tried to fit this story into the overarching theme of urban legends, showing the inconsistencies between stories and the adding of elements from one person to another like a foul game of telephone, but they end up just throwing their hands in the air and walking off, unsatisfied.
    Spencer S Super Reviewer
  • Nov 09, 2014
    Too often the filmmakers resort to cheap, manipulative, 48 hours-esque stylistic choices but they do manage to make disturbing connections between an urban legend of their childhood and the horrifying reality of a series of crimes in their neighborhood.
    Alec B Super Reviewer

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