There are horror movies, and then there are those films that claim to be horror movies even though they’re really the cinematic equivalent of a good goosing. Rather than trafficking in real scares, these movies rely on startling the audience with cheap visual tricks and audio cues in lieu of actual terror. Such is the problem with Stephen Kay’s “Boogeyman.”
Tim (Barry Watson), our hero, saw his dad snatched by the boogeyman fifteen years ago. Now, as a semi-successful adult, he still carries with him a fear of closets and any sort of closed space. His refrigerator has a glass façade, and he’s removed the doors from all his cabinets. If asked, he’d be hard pressed to tell you why he’s afraid of closets, since the official story about his father is that he ran out on the family. This, at least, is what years of therapy have told him.
While visiting his girlfriend’s family for Thanksgiving, Tim gets word that his mother has passed away. He returns to his hometown and is counseled by his boyhood psychiatrist to spend just one night in his old house (the scene of his father’s disappearance), ostensibly to conquer his inner demons, but also because it provides a convenient excuse to put the guy in harm’s way again. Tim spends the next portion of the film trudging through the old homestead (which looks like it shares a builder with the Bates Motel), reconnecting with his childhood friend (Emily Deschanel), and eventually facing the monster that’s been bumping around in the dark all these years.
As I said before, “Boogeyman” isn’t a horror movie. It says it is, but horror has as much to do with suspense and dread as it does with things jumping out at you. Kay positions a camera interestingly enough, and obviously knows his way around a dolly shot, but when the majority of so-called “scares” in your film are nothing more than a quick flash of something on the screen accompanied by loud violins, your audience gets more annoyed than frightened. Kay never builds any sort of atmosphere, choosing instead to load the soundtrack with creaking sounds, minor key warbling, and ominous thunder noises. It’s all foreplay and no money shot, as we’re subjected to an interminable number of scenes involving the principals peering around corners and suspiciously eyeing closed doors.
As for Watson, spending all those years in “7th Heaven” has apparently dulled his nerve endings to the extent that the most he can manage when confronted with supernatural horror from beyond is a slack-jawed stare. Deschanel fares slightly better, but has too little screen time to make much more than a fleeting impression.
At just under 90 minutes, “Boogeyman” spends the majority of its running time jerking the audience’s chain before coming to an abrupt ending. Tim ultimately faces the boogeyman, and – lucky for him – seems to know exactly how to fight the beast. The boogeyman himself, once revealed, is a largely disappointing CGI creation whose appearance raises more questions than it answers: where did he come from? If he can travel from closet to closet using some sort of intra-dimensional gateway, why does he mostly stay in abandoned houses? And finally, how bad did the producers know this movie was going to be if they didn’t even allow for the possibility of a sequel.
With White Noise, Alone in the Dark, and now, “Boogeyman,” 2005 is off to a lousy start in the scary movie department. Perhaps someone should remind Sam Raimi that PG-13 is a cop-out rating for a horror film. Ghost House needs to sack up and make an honest-to-Freddy “R” rated movie or it’ll go the way of Compass International Pictures, which inexplicably folded up after following up “Halloween” with “Blood Beach.”
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