By Heidi Martinuzzi | February 4, 2005

“Boogeyman” has a cute star, a talented set of directors, writers, and producers, and a pretty simple concept as far as horror films go: The Boogeyman is out to get us. If you ask Sam Raimi (which I did) he’ll tell you that there were some serious Asian horror influences on this film. That makes sense, considering his backing of the US production of Takashi Shimizu’s The Grudge. “Boogeyman” is a film that uses psychological scares, like “The Others”, but also manages to shove in enough cat scares, false jumps, and some truly distracting CGI that leaves you wondering exactly what kind of horror film you’re actually watching…

Like “The Grudge”, “Boogeyman” is entirely based on the idea that something supernatural and intangible is angry, and wants to hurt as many people as possible. Tim (Barry Watson) is a young man seriously disturbed by the loss of his father at an early age. Disturbed, I say, because he believes that The Boogeyman came and took his father away. Because of his strange beliefs, he had to spend some time in a mental institution as an adolescent. Now that he has grown up, his mother’s death brings him back to the small town where he was raised and experienced the traumatizing vision of The Boogeyman. Encouraged by his psychiatrist to spend a night in the old house (What a great idea! Durrr) in order to quell his aching soul of the idea that something Otherworldly took possession of his father, rather than accept that his father simply left, Tim prepares to reawaken his childhood memories. See, if Tim spends one night in the old house, he will face the fears he has and he will get over some major emotional problems, right? Nope. Tim, along with a slew of people from his past and present, like his girlfriend, his ex-girlfriend, his uncle, the crazy old man in the weird house down the road, and a weird little girl, experience the terror that originally drove Tim insane.

Or, is it all in Tim’s head? Or is it a CGI monster? Who knows? Is it really important? No. Because this movie’s only strong point is that it actually scares you. Don’t expect the story to make sense, and if it resembles The Butterfly Effect, Identity, “The Grudge”, Jeepers Creepers, or especially if it smacks of that terrible travesty Darkness Falls, please try to ignore it, sit back, and have fun. Director Stephen Kay is great at frightening with imagery that isn’t even scary. (As Stephen puts it, he tried to emulate “The Others”, where “Nicole just staring at the wallpaper becomes scary, and you go, ‘Ahhh, Wallpaper!’”) The camera moves at great and dizzying angles. So dizzying, in fact, that it almost induces nausea. Creepy old houses, shaky cameras, weird angles, and all kinds of cool lenses make this film a technically awesome scare.

The story, however, is a bit boring and uneventful. It is also confusing. It tends to go in different directions all at the same time without really leading anywhere, and the characters seem disconnected and one-dimensional. Barry Watson is strong and charismatic onscreen as Tim, which is a good change from his “7th Heaven” image of goodness and mental stability, but the rest of the characters spend so little time actually developing personality traits that, well, they never develop any personalities. Great scenes filled with action cut to flirtatious nonsense and flashback filler. Most of all, however, this film’s major weakness is the Boogeyman himself. Through the first half of the film he is never seen; he is only a shadow in the darkness of the closets and under-the-bed. He is an idea, a creepy mental intuition that we may or may not be creating for our own torment, just like the character of Tim. With the Boogeyman as a mystery, its so much easer to sympathize with Tim and his situation, and to imagine all of the different possibilities and alternatives to there actually being a Boogeyman. In the second half of the film, The Boogeyman is shown to us in his full-blown CGI glory. He’s a real monster, somewhat fake looking, and he isn’t as terrifying as what the audience may have been envisioning in their minds prior to his appearance.

The premise is simple: by conquering our childhood fears, our nightmares can be eradicated (a la “Nightmare on Elm Street”). This is a film about letting go, growing up, and being strong enough to overcome what frightens you. It’s a common theme in horror films, as those things that scare us in our earliest years will often stay with us as adults (think Clowns, people). It also questions how much of what we think we “made up” as children was actually fantasy. Somehow I wanted more out of the story than just an uplifting formulaic tale of a creepy closet monster. Either scare me, or screw with my head, but please, pick one and stick with it.

This film does cause shivers, creeps, scares, and jumps. It may even make you scream a bit. But the Boogeyman himself will not stay with you or appear in your nightmares. He seems to have no motive, no gusto, no power, and he ends up being destroyed far too easily.

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