Director Joshua Zeman explores the dark side of the urban legends in a pair of chilling documentaries.
Cropsey is the sad and intriguing story of five missing children in the Staten Island area of New York City. The local folklore states that disused tunnels beneath an abandoned mental hospital housed a child murderer and various other unspeakable horrors. Upon examination Zeman and co director Barbara Brancaccio discover this is more than just a fable. Without wanting to spoil anything Cropsey is an interesting and dark film that also includes some truly disturbing footage of an expose on mental hospital Willowbrook from 1972.
Cropsey was Zeman’s first feature and he doesn’t seem to have enough material to cover the 84 minute running time so a lot of the footage is repeated. This story could have been covered in a 45 minute TV show rather than a feature film but it is still a decent watch.
Five years later Zeman returns with another spine chilling film Killer Legends. Taking apart four of the most well known urban myths (hook handed psychopath at Lovers Lane, poisoned Halloween candy, the babysitter receives a call from inside the house and the killer clown) and turning the ‘myths’ on their head to expose the terrible truth behind each of them.
Zeman has clearly learnt a lot in the five years between films as Killer Legends is much better put together, much more interesting and is genuinely one of the most creepy documentaries I have ever seen.
Most people will be familiar with notorious serial killer John W. Gacy so that is the only segment that falls a bit flat but the rest of the film had me on the edge of my seat with it’s part crime part horror angle. Zeman and researcher Rachel Mills decide to put themselves in front of the camera which is something that has grated on me with people like Michael Moore and Nick Broomfield but Zeman and Mills let the stories tell themselves without trying to become the centre of attention.
For anyone interested in the dark and the macabre I would recommend both but if you are just looking for an interesting and well directed documentary Killer Legends will not disappoint.