More noise than signal

Boogeyman

This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site, theOneliner.com

Readers of a certain age and disposition may well have fond memories of the boogeyman, if only from the classic Megadrive explore-em-up Toejam and Earl. A cloaked menace stalking you on the cusp of this reality and whatever darkened corner of Hades it issued from, looking for an opportunity to sneak up behind the player and startle them to death with it’s hideous ‘boogey boogey boogey’ battlecry. For journalist Tim (Barry Watson) this slice of mid nineties light videogaming entertainment becomes the horrific blueprint for his life.

As a mere strip of a lad the titular harumscarum forcibly moves Tim’s father from this mortal coil in front of his very eyes, vanishing him to some special circle of hell, or perhaps purgatory, or possibly Wolverhampton. The matter is not dwelled upon, so let us not tarry on minor detail. Life rolls on, and the now twentysomething Tim is encouraged to write off this escapade as his young mind coming to terms with his father’s sudden, unexplained disappearance. The last vestige of this trauma comes in the form of a mistrust of cupboards, which could be considered strange were it not for the events about to unfold.

After the death of his mother, Tim decides to spend one night in the family house where these bad memories came from in a bid to vanquish them utterly. Given that he’s in a horror movie, this is A Very Bad Idea. Cue strange noises, freaky visions and bad things happening to his girlfriend Jessica (Tory Mussett), childhood friend Kate (Emily Deschanel) and local kid and fellow Boogiechap Believer Franny (Skye McCole Bartusiak).

By ‘very bad things’ we mean that the Boogeyman has apparently brought an orchestra with him, and he routinely trips over it at moments of opportune silence to startle his victims. Certainly there’s an early reliance on the loud orchestral stab school of cheap and easy jump tactics, at which point it’s tempting to write the movie off completely. This sells it short, there is some decent moviemaking in this mixed bag of horror tactics. Director Stephen T. Kay keeps things as visually varied as possible with some interesting camera angles in a terribly tired genre, vital when script necessity calls for a lot of intent staring at cupboards.

In a surprising move, Boogeyman actually has some freaky and unsettling moments. Considering that decent Yankee horror flicks are as rare as hen’s teeth this is something of an achievement. Seriously, if you discount The Ring due to it’s Oriental origins, the last effective horror movies (in our ever so humble opinion) dates back to not far off my birthdate with fare such as The Omen, Don’t Look Now and John Carpenter’s outings such as Prince of Darkness and The Fog. Of course, if you define ‘Horror’ as ‘Gore’ you might as well forget this film exists. It’s pretty-much claret free, and the few offings that occur are shot in SuperUltraShakyCam Confusu-o-vision.

Yes, Boogeyman is quite some way from perfection. It’s also quite some way from being good, truth be told. Relying on mood and atmosphere rather than constant killings is a brave strategy in the current horror market, and it’s a minor tragedy that Boogeyman just falls short on creating enough of said atmosphere to stave off the odd stretch of boredom where little happens. Barry Watson does look suitably apprehensive throughout, but doesn’t quite have the charisma or screen presence to hold your attention in the blank spaces. Just for trying, I want to like this film far more than can be really justified by its contents. Even so this puts me in something of a minority, given the critical mauling this movie took Stateside.

Which leads one to wonder if every critic in America was having a bad day when they saw this film. The same people who chopped this film into puree happily gave out respectable reviews to unforgivable tripe such as Jeepers Creepers 2, Darkness Falls, Dreamcatcher, hell, even Wrong Turn. Each and every one of these show less respect for the genre, less imagination, less talent and far less of items of interest than Boogeyman. This is rather like saying Harold Shipman wasn’t as bad as Slobodan Milosevic, but the point remains. This just isn’t offensive enough to be so casually dismissed if you’re going to give trash as per the above list some semblance of decent discussion.

Looking at the complaints, one can only imagine that they haven’t been taking their medication lately or ought to be taking more. “But it doesn’t make a lot of sense”, they say without hint of irony. Perhaps they weren’t expecting it, but it’s actually a ghost story, with your actual ghosts and ancillaries in it. This alone doesn’t make any sort of sense, and if you’re going to write off one film for one supernatural spacial anomaly you might as well write off the whole genre. “But Tim runs out of the house when things start getting weird!” I contend this makes Tim the only sensible character that there has ever been in a horror film, an odd point upon which to launch a campaign of vitriol. Audiences would seem to agree, the film more or less making back it’s budget on it’s opening weekend stateside.

Well, enough of the St. Jude impersonation. This film is deeply flawed, not particularly scary and often tends towards dullness. The final reveal of it’s monster also disappoints. Not a good combination, but at least it tries. It’s perhaps forty eight hundred times better than Creep, but that damns it with praise so faint as to be invisible to the naked eye. Frankly I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone, but if you must see a horror film of the same ilk as the rest of the god-awful teen oriented horrors this really isn’t worse than the rest, and came far closer to scaring this scrivener than all of the rest of them put together.