With tinkling thriller music and dramatic voiceover narration, this modest but engrossing first-person documentary comes on like a true crime caper. Investigating still-unsolved child abductions that haunted their Staten Island childhoods during the 1980s, directors Barbara Brancaccio and Joshua Zeman tell the story of Manson-eyed criminal Andre Rand. Though this suspected killer is a perversely compelling figure, the film pointedly maintains an air of myth amid its dogged pursuit of the truth, weaving reality together with the folkloric legend of an area bogeyman named Cropsey.
Whether or not Rand is guilty as charged almost seems beside the point to most Staten Islanders (he’s serving consecutive sentences for kidnapping, while evidence of homicide remains both circumstantial and damning); it’s apparent that public judgment is predicated on the fact that, as one resident says, “he don’t look right.” Interviewing cops, witnesses and backyard theorists—not to mention conducting an increasingly bizarre correspondence with the accused—the documentarians discover that their hometown’s seedy side is even more sordid than they’d remembered. After decades of serving as New York’s dumping ground, the Staten Island of Cropsey is haunted by a history of neglect and disregard for its own citizens. In this light, paranoia seems only natural.—Eric Hynes
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