“Boogeyman” is produced by Sam Raimi (the creator of the cult “Evil Dead” films and most recently the director of the “Spiderman” movies), as well as being released by Raimi’s newly formed ‘Ghosthouse’ company, a fact which, like the never-ending tide of films ‘presented by’ Wes Craven and others, lends “Boogeyman” a rather undeserved pedigree. This is not to suggest that “Boogeyman” is necessarily a terrible film, only that those expecting anything up to Raimi’s usual level of inventiveness will be sorely disappointed. Instead, “Boogeyman” is an almost archetypal example of modern Hollywood horror, whose script reads like a veritable checklist of cliché, and whose uninspired visuals scream ‘made for television’.
Despite the above, “Boogeyman” manages, for most of its running time at least, to provide reasonable, if somewhat cynically produced entertainment for the less discriminating amongst genre fans or for the younger viewers it seems to be aimed at. The plot centres upon Tim (Barry Watson of “7th Heaven” fame), a young man who as a child witnessed his father being killed by some kind of unseen closet monster, an event which leaves him understandably traumatised. After his mother’s death, an adult Tim is forced to return home, where he decides to spend a night in the old house in an attempt to face the demons of his past. However, as more people start to disappear, it becomes clear that the boogeyman of Tim’s memory is still lurking around, hungry for victims.
“Boogeyman” is directed by Stephen T. Kay, most of whose work has been for television (he was also responsible for the excruciatingly awful Stallone remake of “Get Carter”), a fact which shows all too clearly. The film has the look and feel of an extended episode of a teen horror show, from the constant use of establishing shots right through to the cheap CGI special effects. Kay’s use of cliché is at times groan inducing, especially the constant rolls of thunder and his unfortunate decision to include the stereotypical ‘creepy kid’ character, which has little to do with the actual plot. Such tired devices only further convince that this is a film far more at home on the small screen.
Matters are not helped by the cast, most of who are instantly recognisable TV actors, or the fact that the weak script seems reluctant to delve into any of their characters beyond basic details such as their occupation. Of course, this means that the viewer cares little for any of them, which would be forgivable in a bodycount type horror, though in a film with pretensions towards psychological content, it greatly detracts from any potential scares. Kay seems quite oblivious to this, and happily throws in cheap frights, most of which involve something dark falling suddenly into frame. Whilst this is obviously a tried and tested device in the horror genre, to base an entire film around its usage indicates a staggering lack of ideas.
To be fair, writer Eric Kripke does manage to work in a fair amount of cheap pop psychology and symbolism, which for the most part works quite well. The viewer is kept interested, if not through the characters themselves, then through some vaguely intelligent plotting, mainly based around guessing the veracity of the central premise. There are of course a multitude of plot holes, though thankfully most of these are not too glaring. Unfortunately, the film loses its convictions before the end, and what could have been a fairly neat little thriller is ruined by the pointless and distasteful inclusion of a ludicrous and cheap-looking CGI monster, whose presence serves only to undermine all that has gone before.
The final nail in the coffin, for older viewers at least, is the complete lack of visceral content. Whilst there is something to be said for the value of restraint, “Boogeyman” is simply not a film which is intelligent enough to warrant the pulling of punches, and thus its reluctance to show anything unpleasant makes it rather dull. This is a film where very little actually happens beyond a few loud noises and some would-be ominous atmospherics, and there is very little attempt to generate any feelings of menace or threat.
Of course, given “Boogeyman’s” probable pre-pubescent target audience, the lack of gore is forgivable enough, though the film’s apparent lack of ambition beyond providing standard fare is not. As a result, “Boogeyman” is unlikely to be enjoyed by anyone outside of its teen demographic, or anyone who has seen enough genre films to roll their eyes at the horror cliché which Kay relies upon so heavily.
Stephen T. Kay (director) / Eric Kripke, Juliet Snowden, Stiles White (screenplay)
CAST: Barry Watson …. Tim Jensen
Emily Deschanel …. Kate
Skye McCole Bartusiak …. Franny
Lucy Lawless …. Mary Jensen
Tory Mussett …. Jessica