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Disclaimer

Unless otherwise noted in the post title, these are not
reviews, per se. They are articles for people who have already seen the film or read the book in question--meaning that there will be spoilers. If you're already familiar with the material being covered, or don't mind the plot being spoiled, please read on and leave a comment.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Documentary Review: Killer Legends (2014)

In 2009, filmmakers Joshua Zeman and Rachel Mills brought us CROPSEY, a fantastic documentary
Poster Image
that began as an investigation into a local legend and ended up delving into a true murder mystery and examining the treatment of the mentally ill.  In this long-anticipated (and sorely unpublicized) follow-up, Zeman and Mills give similar treatment to urban legends that extend beyond their hometown of Staten Island and into America at large.  Four different legends are explored, uncovering the possible real-life origins of the myths, or at the very least, genuine examples.

The first segment covers the myth of the Hook, in which young people on Lover’s Lane narrowly escape with their lives from an escaped convict with a hook for a hand.  Taken as a warning, this is an early example of the slasher-film trope that sex equals death, but it’s feasible that there is a kernel of truth to the story.  Only a few short years before the legend began making its way across America, the Moonlight Murders rocked the town of Texarkana, Texas.  A masked character known as the Phantom was murdering teenagers found in such locations, a crime spree that would eventually become the basis of the horror film THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (1976) and its 2014 remake.  In what is either a brilliant or tasteless move, the Texarkana Parks & Rec department puts on an annual showing of the original film in the area of the actual crime scenes.

The second segment discusses the prevailing urban legend of tainted candy and apples with razor blades being passed out to Trick ‘r’ Treaters on Halloween.  There appears to be only one documented case of this actually happening—the Candy Man case—in which a young boy was poisoned with a cyanide-laced Pixie Stick.  The revelation in this segment is quite shocking if you’re not familiar with the story, and will make you question the worth of humanity in general.  On a side note, vintage news footage was shown of a Phoenix area hospital that was offering to x-ray bags of Halloween candy to calm parental fear of tampering—the exact same footage that I remember seeing as a child growing up there.

The third segment details a real example of the Babysitter Murders (“The call is coming from inside the house!”), in which Columbia, MO saw a string of young babysitters being raped and murdered by an unknown man.  Overturned convictions and lack of evidence give this story a chillingly incomplete conclusion.

Zeman & Mills
The fourth and final segment covers the Killer Clown archetype, especially in regards to the strange cycle of evil clown sightings that crop up periodically in Chicago.  It would be easy to attribute these reports to hysteria in the wake of John Wayne Gacy, but these sightings began years prior to that.  Again, I spent the early years of my life in the Chicago area, and distinctly remember the stories of clowns abducting children from school yards, so this was of particular interest to me (and likely explains my fascination with clown, circus and carnival horror motifs).

Zeman and Mills did a commendable job of condensing four stories into a 90-minute running time, especially considering each segment could easily have filled out a full-length documentary of its own.  Some of the cases discussed here are well-known, so if you’re a true crime buff, this likely won’t uncover any facts that you’re not already aware of.  But for those with a casual interest in the subject matter, or for horror movie fans, this will likely be of great interest to you.  It’s not as grand or as sweeping as CROPSEY, but still a fascinating anthology and a worthy follow-up.

Kudos to Chiller for getting this doc made.  But for the love of God, can somebody get these two an ongoing series!?


—J/Metro

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