Welcome to Part Three of my Halloween Watchlist. In Part One, I recommended some horror movies that would make you laugh. Part Two was a collection from my favorite horror genre, found footage movies. Those films may be scary because of their realism, but nothing is more terrifying than real-life stories of the supernatural, paranormal, and unexplained. With that in mind, here are some great spooky documentaries for your Halloween pleasure.
Who among us has never been afraid of the bogeyman? Trying to sleep as a child, and wondering what was lurking in the closet, or hiding under the bed? Bogeyman legends have been around for centuries, and seem to be coded into our DNA, remnants of our primitive selves vying for self-preservation and needing to be sure there was nothing waiting in the dark to snatch us up. Parents have used bogeyman stories to scare children into behaving well, and as cautionary tales about the dangers in the world around them. Cropsey is the name of the local bogeyman in New York, and the film “Cropsey” looks at a real-life bogeyman in Staten Island, NY. Written and directed by Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio, “Cropsey” examines the spate of children going missing in the forgotten borough from the early 1970s through the late 1980s. As children kept disappearing, residents of Staten Island became more and more alarmed, and understandably, a hysteria began. The abductor had to be caught, and the citizens mobilized. The anger culminated in the summer of 1987, when the body of Jennifer Schweiger was found in a shallow grave. The community was outraged, and turned their wrath towards Andre Rand, a mentally ill homeless man, who was a former janitor at the Willowbrook State School, which is also where Schweiger’s body was found. Rand was arrested, tried, and convicted, and is serving time to this day. The film does a masterful job of immersing the viewer in the fear and panic that gripped the city at the time using archival television news reports as each child goes missing, but also illustrates the terrifying dangers of mob mentality and witch hunts, as unreliable witnesses testify and no real evidence is provided to prove Rand was the actual murderer, and yet he is convicted anyway, mainly because he fits the stereotype of a child molester. Rand sits in jail, punished for crimes he may or may not have committed, because a community was scared and needed someone, anyone, to pay for the crimes. Crimes many people still believe are unsolved. A chilling urban legend, real life tragedies, and unnerving mob rule all in one disturbing flick.
The Bridgewater Triangle
You have of course heard of the Bermuda Triangle, the area of ocean between Florida, Puerto Rico, and Bermuda, wherein planes and boats tend to disappear mysteriously. Or not so mysteriously, as the case may be. But there is an area of land in southeastern Massachusetts where all manner of paranormal activity is alleged to occur, from Bigfoot encounters, UFO sightings, and ghostly hauntings, to more extraordinary claims of thunderbirds, monster snakes, animal mutilations, and the mysterious pukwudgies. Loren Coleman first coined the phrase “The Bridgewater Triangle” in his book Mysterious America, and defines it as the area within the towns of Abington, Rehoboth and Freetown, each at a point of the triangle. This film uses interviews with him, as well as local eyewitnesses, to tell of some of the stranger tales from within the Triangle. The most disturbing for me was the story of the man out walking his dog one night and coming across a pukwudgie, a small, hairy troll-like creature from Native American folklore. And the really unsettling part? The creature was trying to speak to him in broken English. A weird, creepy little story among many documented here. There’s a little something in here for everyone, as it focuses on many different monsters and phenomena, and overall it’s a neat little doc about a lesser-known hotspot of paranormal activity and unusual happenings.
The Mothman of Point Pleasant
I have reviewed a number of documentaries from the wonderful Small Town Monsters crew recently, and honestly, you can’t go wrong with any of their offerings. But I’ve already given plenty of love to “The Bray Road Beast,” “The Flatwoods Monster,” and “Boggy Creek Monster” in recent posts, so I decided to add one here that I haven’t properly reviewed yet. “The Mothman of Point Pleasant” examines of of my favorite cryptids, the winged humanoid creature that terrorized the small town of Point Pleasant in West Virginia in 1966 and 1967. The film looks at the original sightings, which crescendoed with the collapse of the Silver Bridge on December 15th, 1967. And while most people believe the sightings ended at that point, more recent eyewitness accounts are highlighted here, along with some lesser-known stories from the original wave of encounters. They also give lots of attention to Jeff Wamsley and the increasingly successful Mothman festival, which is held every September in the town, showing how the locals took something terrifying and made it a source of pride. Narrated expertly by Lyle Blackburn, with uniquely stylized art and animations for the reenactments, and a perfectly fitting musical score that is both melancholy yet foreboding, this is a must-see documentary about one of the strangest cryptid creatures out there, and will keep you second-guessing what we know (or don’t know) about what possibly haunts this world.
The Legend of Boggy Creek
The granddaddy of all Bigfoot documentaries, and a damn good creature-feature to boot. Responsible for inspiring legions of cryptozoologists, most notably Lyle Blackburn, this film documents the sightings of the Boggy Creek creature, a Bigfoot-like monster that stalks the swamps of southern Arkansas. The film uses eyewitness interviews and dramatic reenactments to tell some of the spookier tales of the creature terrifying the little town of Fouke, AR, starting in the 1950s. The film cost a little more than $150,000 to produce, and grossed $20 million at the box office, becoming a drive-in success. In later years it was played and replayed on late-night TV, paired with other horror movies. The film is a little campy by today’s standards, but the location filming, grainy footage, and local-flavored music make this a very eerie and atmospheric film. Many of the original eyewitnesses appear in the film, sometimes even playing themselves in the reenactments. The location filming really gives the viewer a sense of the swamps, and how desolate and lonely they can be, and it’s not hard to imagine a large, skulking creature wandering the swamps, and running into the occasional hunter or fisherman. The vignette about the creature stalking a family of women and children while the men are at work is really heart-pounding, and awesome Halloween fodder. Watch it with your friends with the lights out and have a blast.