The Macabre Brothers share an affinity for bargain-bin horror films. It’s actually more like an addiction – hardly a month goes by without one of us wasting $5 on some dubious DVD title. Such impulse buys may not deserve a full review, but like porn, they’re worth a quick and shameful glance. In Basement Ramblings, we answer your most meaningful question: Is this month’s piece of crap worth the price of a Big Mac?
The premise: Closets, irresponsible parents and an offensively generic ghoul get the PG-13 treatment in Boogeyman, a confused little horror flick directed by Sons of Anarchy regular Stephen Kay. Filmed in Kay’s native New Zealand yet disguised as Anytown, USA, the film opens shortly after a skittish youngster watches his father die in traumatic fashion. As podunk children are wont to do, Tim (played in adulthood by Seventh Heaven’s Barry Watson) lands a job in the big city, where an uncontrollable fear of all things dark and shadowy is barely hidden from hipster friends. He decides the best time to confront these issues is shortly after his crazed mother dies, and in a sign of the film to come, a childhood psychologist suggests spending “just one night” at the farmhouse his family left mired in secrets and rat shit. With the help of a girlfriend, an ex-girlfriend and some underaged tomboy, Tim confronts a boogeyman he’s sure has followed him for nearly two decades.
Where I found it: On a rack in the West Vail 7-Eleven, unceremoniously wedged between such disparate classics as Accepted and Tremors 3. At the time – 3 p.m. on a Sunday – a pre-viewed DVD for $2.99 seemed like the logical complement to a hangover meal of Slim Jims and Gatorade. (In the interest of full disclosure, this film saw a brief theatrical run, but a cardboard package with “Treasure Hunt!” across the top makes it perfect for this feature.)
Why it caught my eye: I was hung over at 3 p.m., so there’s that.
What works: More than I’ve let on. As I said, Boogeyman is a confused little film, and I don’t think its failings are entirely the fault of Kay and his screenwriter, Eric Kripke, a fellow TV veteran known for the pulpy CW series Supernatural. The two eke tension from the mundane, as in an early scene when Tim’s blonde, pretty girlfriend (Tory Mussett) is framed against an open closet – the source of his things-that-go-bump-in-the-night-aphobia. It’s a clever twist on the oft-used “jump scare” tactic of modern horror: The audience knows nothing could possibly happen so soon, but she stands in the doorway just a beat or two longer than we like. That sort of real yet irrational discomfort is the heart of mood-driven horror – not loud noises and swirling CGI. More on that in a bit.
Although Boogeyman leans heavily on this closet-as-supernatural-abyss conceit, I wanted so very, very badly to believe it disguised something more intricate. There’s a truly frightening idea bubbling just beneath the surface:
Tim is crazy at best and really fucking crazy at worst. Roughly halfway through the film – the majority takes place during that “one night” at the farmhouse, which happens to be rife with closets – Tim’s ex-girlfriend (that chick from Bones, Emily Deschanel) visits the house to check on her old flame, only to find he left for a roadside motel with the new girlfriend. Kay cuts back and forth between scenes in the motel and farmhouse, slowly building tension to the reveal: Tim is still in the house, but he has vivid memories of whaking up at the motel. A few scenes earlier, he was trapped in the closet (“R. Kelly? Are you the b-b-b-boogeyman?”) and emerged in a panic, laughing in that oddly comforting way of horror-film crazies. In some other dimension, the film ran with this idea of childhood trauma slowly eating away at an otherwise healthy, functioning adult.
In yet another dimension – perhaps the one with Kay’s Kiwi sensibility intact – Boogeyman is a fun, cheeky sendup of self-serious horror films from the early and mid-2000s. Examples abound: When a bird goes kamikaze on Tim’s windshield, he does the only sane thing and tries to scrape the carcass with the windshield wipers. Every plot point is a horror trope, from the kiddy psych ward to the creepy 10-room motel. Even Watson’s pretty-boy performance borders on self-aware cheese, and in that other dimension, everyone had a much better time than they do here.
What sucks: The opening and closing scenes. Without giving away entire plotlines – the film takes care of that in less than five minutes – Tim’s father is convincingly killed by a real boogeyman, which makes my musings on potential insanity moot. Blame it on personal preference, but the best, most chilling horror films favor the suggested over the literal (The Shining, cough). Sure, Tim spends most of Boogeyman staring half-idiotically at dark closets and spaces – suggestion, however blunt it may be – but the audience already knows something supernatural is going on. The script doesn’t bother with an alternate explanation for the father’s disappearance, and flashbacks of the turmoil caused by a scary bedtime story reiterate one thing: The film itself believes Tim’s boogeyman is real.
When all signs point to one conclusion there’s not room for interpretation or uncertainty, and by the time we reach the climax, the film devolves into a bland hero’s journey. Tim confronts his fears – aka the titular boogeyman, complete with CGI mist and a Mummy-like mouth – and moves on, unconvincingly setting the stage for two direct-to-DVD sequels. Don’t hold your breath for a follow-up on either.
As a side note, 2005 must’ve been the year Lucy Lawless ran out of Xena money. She makes a cameo as Tim’s crazed mother, wearing the signature yellowed nightgown of all those who are legitimately batshit. What if the script found a way to comment on the hereditary nature of insanity? Alas, it wasn’t to be, and Lawless went back to playing a cold-hearted Cylon bitch on Battlestar Galactica. Good call.
Verdict: I respect traditional horror, as well as directors who mold conventions into something new and vibrant. Boogeyman shows glimmers of brilliance, but they’re snuffed out by half-baked ideas, characters, scares and, most grievous of all, attempts to buck the status quo. The film is adequate in every sense of the word.
Ramblings: My notes on the film, presented in unedited, uncensored fashion. A word of warning: I can’t be held responsible for my illiteracy – this is the rambling part.
Apparently, someone from 7th heaven is in this film
What do you know — Sam Raimi is a producer
Not quite a direct to dvd flick, but pretty low key, and when you find it in a sketchy used-movie rack at 7-11, it sure feels like a guilty pleasure
As usual, this poor kid’s room is full of everyday shit that become inexplicably creepy in the middle of the night – I remember that feeling, so points for atmosphere
Hehe…I like how this little rugrat uses the same drawer to hold scary shit. The fear chest, maybe?
Also, I’m unreasonably jealous of this kid’s room – sure, it’s full of weird, scary objects, but it’s also HUGE
Dad’s gonna get it – anytime someone in a horror movie says something doesn’t exist or it’s just a story, it most definitely exists
Yup, dad gets sucked into the closety abyss, several times over
I assume this guy we meet “15 years later” is the little kid, all grown up – guess he’s the oldest son on Seventh Heaven
His sweater is unintentionally hilarious, like something my grandma might wear with snowflakes and a zippered turtleneck
Ha ha ha he’s a grown ass man and still afraid of closets in dark rooms…I get it, after watching your dad die and all, but they’re gonna have to try damn hard to make this frightening time after time
– Good call placing the girlfriend right in front of the closet – ekes a bit of tension from an early scene we know won’t turn into anything
Aight, that doesn’t make much sense – dude who’s afraid of the dark decides to walk home, alone, through a dark park. Smart ass mother
*******Huh…took off all the closet doors, has a see-through fridge, exposed lighting everywhere. Were all hipsters and/or art deco designers afraid of boogeymen at some point?
Good lord, this is one of the more uncomfortably awkward dinner scenes ever. The writing is a bit clunky – dad just goes straight for the throat, so he comes across as a bit shallow character-wise. At least the girlfriend is real loaded.
“In that case, I’ll put on something…naughty” “You do that” Most ridiculous way to hit on your girlfriend, ever. I wouldn’t be surprised if he never gets laid
*******Horror film 101: It’s good to have an object of fear (say, a kitchen knife rack in slashers) but when you show that object over and over and over again, it gets a bit tiring (maybe too literal?). It’s better to let the object speak for itself – fear comes from the idea behind something like a closet, and with a very blunt name like Boogeyman, there’s not much room for letting the audience fill in the gaps
Dude (apparently his name is Tim) has some hardcore mommy issues. Scene with mom in bedroom is pretty disturbing, well-timed, all that good stuff
– also, he looks like Jason London
Ruh-roh…Mom is dead. Can this kid see the future? ESP? Some other ability yet to be explained? I’m feeling intrigued, even if the film is following a pretty standard pace so far. Guess I wanted more imaginative timing or plot structure – could’ve made this bitch pop
We even have the introduction of creepy kids who like to paint creepy shit. There has to be some stat on the number of horror flicks with that trope
His old child psychologist doesn’t seem very helpful, telling him to stay at the house where his father died
– not just stay – “stay one night,” which is also a trope that needs a stat
Well that’s a fun little fact: Filmed in New Zealand, and it shows in the slight accents of a few supporting characters (not to mention the scenery at the graveyard). Wonder where it was meant to take place? The east coast somewhere?
Ok, this funeral scene is real dramatic, what with the rose and junk
HAHAHAHA whoever was in charge of throwing leaves through the frame FUCKED UP
This poor guy just has shitty stuff happen to him everywhere he goes – a crow dies on his windshield by literally beaking it straight through
– Heh….pretty funny when he tries to get it off with the windshield wipers
At what point did he realize it was an awful idea to go stay at his old house?
The sound effects make this thing cheesy as all sin – plenty of gristle with the dead crow, lots of blowing wind and chimes, dripping drains, rustling plastic cloth, whispers coming from nearly every fucking closet
Not sure how I feel about the actor playing Tim…he’s going for scared shitless, but half the time, his face reads clueless/borderline retarded
This ghostlike tracking shot of the various hallways and rooms in his old house didn’t quite fit the mood…it was a bit too abrupt, too fast, too scatterbrained. I’ve seen that kind of technique work before, but it’s usually in films with higher energy.
So Dad scared the shit out of little Timmy with a boogeyman story, just like his dad before him – gotta love the circle of patriarchal mindfucking
I wonder if the girlfriend is ever coming back into the picture…seems like sort of movie where she probably won’t, especially now that the old crush got thrown from her horse
– oh hehe…it’s the chick from Bones
– and the trend of slightly recognizable actors continues!
“It’s not the closets, it’s the thing under the bed you need to worry about” – Tim’s face after the old flame says this is hilarious
******A very traditional horror movie, which I respect, but I honestly wanted a bit more panache, personality, what have you…I’ll think of ways it could work better and be more memorable
Holy shit…for this guy, being trapped in the closet (heh) is the equivalent of being buried alive
– ok, but losing his shit afterwards by laughing like a crazy person makes me think the boogeyman isn’t quite real, except we saw his dad killed by one. Or at least we thought….maybe it’ll reveal something soon, like he created the boogeyman to make up for dad leaving
PLUS: The set design is pretty kliller, with creepy homes and sets and everything else
Tim’s talking to children voice borders on rapey
Little girl’s name is Franny, which is an awful, awful name for a young, cute kid in 2005
Is Tim the only kid to lose a parent to the boogeyman? If this thing is real – and I’m still waffling on it – you’d think it would fuck with more people
– Maybe I’m throwing a bit too much logic at this dumb movie….
– Aight, he has a backpack of newspaper clippings for missing children. But why was Tim’s dad taken? Does that make him the outlier, the reason Franny tracks him down?
Holy shit – Dad throws little Timmy in a closet to show him the boogeyman isn’t real
********I really like the way they’re incorporating these flashbacks – they aren’t massive info dumps, but built directly into his movements as he wanders around a house he hasn’t visited in years. Good job, people. Mayube that’s the glimmer of creativity I was looking for, or at least the start of it
Scene with crowd of missing kids is pretty fucking creepy, well-timed – I especially enjoy how they all turn to look at the closet in sync. Fucking well done, my boys
***Aight, girlfriend does show back up, but as a typicakl blonde (sorry all blondes who aren’t typical), her brilliant idea involves staying at a creepy motel because IT’S LATE AND WE NEED REST. Trope no. 3, check.
******Maybe that’s another inkling of dumb fun in this movie, finding all the little touches from other horror flicks. But still, it’s enough to recite what’s been done before, and a whole different beast to elevate it
Wah-wah…old flame returns and finds no one home. OR DOES SHE……..?
Whoever edited this film did a decent job – cutting back and forth between the hotel and old house, with two sets of characters dealing with fucked up closets, builds tension naturally and unsuspectingly
– and yet another trope: crazy person finally convinces himself everything will be fine, only to have his fears affirmed
Oh, the dude is definitely out of his mind – thought he went to hotel and was trapped in closet (heh, again) the whole time.
– Good, well-timed, well-concealed reveal (not really a twist). Ok, this movie is starting to drag me in
Hold on, he has the actually key for the hotel room. Maybe he was there? Fuck if I know…shit’s getting trippy
Did he actually kill the girlfriend?
Abuse begets abuse (dad emotionally abused son, son physically kills girlfriend) – I’m not sure if this s the sort of horror movie to forgo a creature or payoff reveal for more subtle, rewarding psychological insight, but it’s setting SOMETHING up. Let’s hope for the best.
– Also, old flame is pretty fucking trusting, just willing to hang out with a potential crazy person/murderer
Gotta love how Tim is asking the little girl for help…this dude has some serious, serious adult problems, as in he can’t figure out how the fuck to be an adult
Old, creepy house filled with different names for boogeyman is pretty interesting
– but it makes me wonder: why has the little girl never been in this house before, especially if it’s right next to her supposed house at the park
NEVERMIND motherfucking franny is the girl who was supposedly lost
****How much of this takes place in his mind? All? None? Some? Either way, this guy deals with some horrible shit – an imagination from hell
I’m still kinda waiting for the blonde girlfriend to reappear, maybe shoved in A CLOSET somewhere. That’d be funny.
Holy destruction, batman – we’ve got boards being blown off doors and exploding wood chunks and all sorts of shit happening in this house
Oh damn, Franny is back…
So, his old closet still has clothing in it? Weird…
***UNLESS he invented the whole damn thing, seeing as how he pops out from under the bed when he finally enters
– I’m digging the twists and turns, but I hope to get oriented sometie soon. If you pull too many rugs, you can’t walk
Stupid PG13 movies – if it weren’t we might actually see some boobs during the hotel bathtub scene
Shit, that doesn’t look good for homeboy – he stabbed uncle Mike with an xacto knife, he possibly killed his girlfriend. If nothing else, he’s leaving lots of evidence. That boogeyman should work for the mob to frame people
Kind of a neat trick, having people pulled through various closets and dark spaces into other closets and dark spaces – kind of like a Monsters Inc type of portal world
There is a shitload of CGI going on right now – not sure how I feel about it, esp since the boogeyman looks like one of the Mummys from Mummy
Huh…so, was Tim the inventor/creator/who knows of the Boogeyman? If only he can destroy it, do all die, or just his personal boogeyman? I want to knoooooooow
“He’s gone” nope, this movie still has 15 minutes. Sure as hell isn’t gone – sometimes cheating is a bummer
– Heh…followed by “Is it over” “Yeah, it’s over. He’s not coming back.”
He may never come back, but will all your friends and family and other people? I mean, Tim looks like a straight-up murderer. Good thing it’s day time
****Since there’s a witness to the actual boogeyman shenanigans, we have to believe it happened. Not sure how I feel about that either….I’ll give it a few days
– bt dub, when he said it was actually over, well, it’s actually over. This isn’t a short story – films tell more than the tip of the iceberg. Maybe that’s why we get some weird sequels