Documentary Spotlight: Halloween

This week we’re getting spooky at RICE, and luring the spirits out of the underworld with three scary documentaries for Halloween.

Cropsey (2009)

Cropsey follows Staten Island natives Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio as they investigate the hook-handed, shadow-lurking, child-stealing bogeyman ‘Cropsey’; stories of whom had pervaded the area for years. As if this wasn’t scary enough, the film progresses and the legend is embroiled with the very real stories of five children who went missing throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s and  Andre Rand, the man linked to their disappearances. Despite public opinion overwhelmingly condemning Rand, incriminating evidence was anything but abundant, and Zeman and Brancaccio manage to maintain a neutral perspective throughout the film. The result is a documentary which is both a murder-mystery and a thoughtful exploration into infamy, villainy and the creation of urban legends through folklore and the media.

The Nightmare (2015)

The Nightmare by Rodney Ascher explores the phenomenon of sleep paralysis, through the harrowing personal accounts of people who have experienced it for years. Yet, while there are several scientific theories as to what causes the experience, this film is not so much an investigation as it is a curated portfolio of nightmares. Ascher encourages the affected to sit in their dimly lit bedrooms, describing their experiences in excruciating detail. They point to places where they have seen demons and even sketch out their visions. Ascher then recreates scenes of evil, amorphous shadows appearing at the door and approaching in the dark. Some characters are human-like, some like ravenous beasts.

To Ascher, this was a subject of huge personal significance, as he himself had also previously dealt with the debilitating effects of sleep paralysis. The film therefore succeeds in retaining a deeply subjective personal tone, and is all the more terrifying for it.

What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

If you haven’t been frightened away yet… You may be glad to find that our third recommendation is significantly lighter in tone.

What We Do in the Shadows is a mockumentary-horror-comedy; written, directed by and starring Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi. The film follows a group of cohabitating vampires in Wellington New Zealand, as they attempt to balance dealing with the complexities of modern life and an overwhelming need to drink the blood of living humans. Through scenes of abject gore, layered on top of relatable situations like paying rent and trying to get into nightclubs, the film is a hilarious and refreshing revival of the previously (or.. arguably) exhausted Vampire genre. Watch and laugh… If you dare.

Happy Halloween from RICE and Digipost!


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