REVIEW: KILLER LEGENDS (2014)

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KILLER LEGENDS (2014)

Just a short while ago, I took a look back here at a very disturbing 2010 documentary called Cropsey about the real-life disappearances of five children in Staten Island and the urban legend it spawned. Now from Chiller TV, the director of Cropsey Joshua Zeman, is back with a new and equally unsettling documentary taking on four more classic urban legends and the real-life crimes that inspired them. Zeman and researcher Rachel Mills travel across the U.S. and dig deep to find the truth that inspired some of America’s most chilling campfire tales…and truth is always scarier then fiction.

Zeman and Mills first travel to Texarkana to investigate a series of brutal murders of teens at a popular make-out spot that occurred in 1946 and inspired not only the urban legend of the “Hookman” but the chilling horror classic The Town That Dreaded Sundown. We get another chilling investigation into a series of attacks and murders by a man dubbed “The Phantom”, a crime spree that was never solved and even more unsettling is how the town is still haunted by these horrific events decades later and it has provoked some equally disturbing customs from the residents.

Zeman and Mills then travel to Houston, Texas to investigate the murder of a little boy poisoned by tainted Halloween candy and quite possibly the case that started the popular fear-inducing Halloween urban legends of candy filled with glass, razor blades and poisons…of which there are actually no recorded incidents aside from this sad tale. We learn of the death of 8-year-old Timothy O’Bryan in 1974 and the intense police investigation which culminated in the arrest, conviction and eventual execution of the “Candyman”, the man who poisoned the Pixie Stick that lead to Timothy’s death and the start of these scary Halloween tales. Even more shocking was the man’s name was Ronald Clark O’Bryan…the boy’s own father. Proving the most frightening ghouls and goblins are the ones living in our very own backyards.

The duo next take us to Columbia, Missouri to tackle the popular urban legend of babysitters being stalked by unknown fiends with the heartbreaking rape and murder of young Janett Christman in 1950, who was sexually assaulted and strangled while babysitting for a local family. We are treated to an investigation that finds how the popular urban legend was fueled by the possibility that the same man may have committed a number of similar crimes and was never caught…though some unfortunate individuals were blamed for his heinous acts. Even more chilling is their research points to a man who was questioned, but never connected to the crimes…a man some of the victims knew as a neighbor and friend. This segment was particularly disturbing to think that someone got away with murdering these poor young women and actually might have lived among them in plain sight.

Our final segment is sure to send goosebumps rippling up and down arms with a story touching on the fear of clowns and some really creepy clown cases and tales from the windy city of Chicago. For decades Chicago has suffered reports of clowns driving around in white vans trying to lure children inside and even more disturbing is that there are actually police reports and eye-witness accounts of this occurring…and the reports suggest there were more than one of these ‘clowns’ stalking the city. Thankfully, no children were abducted…that we know of. It’s a case that has never been solved. We also get an in-depth look into a city that was home to the world famous Bozo The Clown show and to perhaps the spookiest clown creep of them all…John Wayne Gacy, who was convicted of killing over 30 people. Where did the fear of clowns originate?…Chicago apparently!

All these stories are given some very thorough investigations by the documentary filmmaker and his researcher. We get some bone-chilling facts, shocking crime scene photos, interviews with those involved and visits to some of the actual locations which these real-life crimes and occurrences took place. It’s very informative and the information provided can really be unnerving as we find the true start to some popular urban legends and the movies they inspired. And Zeman and Mills take us on this journey of discovery, eagerly trying to get to the bottom of these cases from which some of our culture’s scariest bedtime stories have spawned. They dig deep and it’s not only fascinating, but also quite horrifying that, in most cases, the perpetrators were never caught, or worse still, the wrong person was charged or suspected of the crime. And what better way to start an urban legend than an unsolved real incident! Zeman and Mills are more then happy to give us some hauntingly all-too-real facts that will make one sleep with a light on, far more effectively than any movie or bedtime story. A very effective and disturbing documentary that chills and informs equally.

3 and 1/2 stars.

three and one half stars rating

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: CROPSEY and ROUGH CUT

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 I wanted to do something a little different for today’s Saturday Night Double Feature! So, I decided to take a look at two very chilling documentaries that are as effective and goose-bump inducing as any fictional horror flick out there… all the more so because their stories are true…
Cropsey

CROPSEY (2009)

Cropsey is a very interesting and disturbing documentary from writer/directors Barbara Brancaccio and Joshua Zeman about the disappearances in Staten Island of five children and the homeless man allegedly responsible, Andre Rand. The filmmakers use a local urban legend about a killer named Cropsey to frame the real story of the disappearances in the late 70s and 80s. And while Rand was a prime suspect and eventually arrested, there are enough doubts and questions as to whether he was truly responsible, or was used as a scapegoat to satisfy a terrified community’s need for closure and justice. Rand was never convicted of the actual murders, though was previously convicted for child related crimes, as only one of the children’s bodies was ever found. He was convicted on kidnapping charges for two of the five children to whom the police were able to link him. But questions still linger and the documentary asks whether it was really Rand, who was a former employee of the horribly run Willowbrook State Institution, that housed handicapped children, or was it cultists have been known to conduct ceremonies in and around the now abandoned institute…or someone else. The documentary basically presents the story as is and let’s you decide whether justice was served or is there something more sinister that went on in the borough of Staten Island during this almost twenty year stretch. A very unsettling documentary about the still mysterious circumstances of these events and their lingering effects on the surrounding community.

3 and 1/2 stars!

three and one half stars rating

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ROUGH CUT (2009)

Rough Cut is an extremely disturbing and absolutely bone chilling documentary about an amateur filmmaker who agrees to murder his friend’s wife to pay for his low budget horror movie. Todd Klick uses interviews with family, friends, police and the cast of the horror film in question, along with news footage, stills and actual footage of the filming of “Hike Through: A Ghost Story” to paint a haunting portrayal of filmmaker Blaine Norris and friend Brian Trimble, who carried out a brutal act that could serve as a plot for a horror film in itself. Klick’s documentary is equal parts fascinating and horrifying as it paints a portrait of two Pennsylvania friends who, at first seem like your average film nerds/geeks, but the deeper we are pulled into their worlds and the more we learn about them, we start to find out that they both (especially Norris) are actually two very disturbed individuals.

The documentary starts up with Randi Trimble’s brutal murder in January 2003 and then traces back to her and Brian Trimble’s wedding and Blaine Norris’ subsequent quest to make a low budget horror film. We then move forward using the police investigation and the other interviews to gradually unveil how problems in the Trimble marriage and the financial burden of Norris’ film brought these two emotionally deranged individuals to plot the vicious murder of Randi Trimble, which Norris would agree to carry out in exchange for enough money to pay off his movie debts. This is a very haunting journey filmmaker Klick takes us on from the opening news footage of Mrs. Trimble’s murder to the final frames that rest on her grave. It is a true story of two very unhinged men that will stay with you long after the documentary is over. A powerful and deeply affecting film.

3 and 1/2 stars!

three and one half stars rating

I could not find a trailer for Rough Cut but, it is rentable from Netflix.

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