“It's just a story ... he's not real.”
Starting with a great scene-setter that puts every child's nightmare up on the screen in goose-bumping glory, Ghost House Pictures' Boogeyman sets the ball rolling with gusto. Young Timmy's demon in the closet makes bedtime a living hell - thunder rumbles overhead, everyday objects take on monstrous forms, action figures become twisted beasts and dear old dad doesn't believe that the boogeyman is behind that creaking door. Boy, is he in for a shock when he goes for a looksee! Unfortunately, after this wonderful powerhouse intro, so are we. Yep, that's right, folks. Everything you've probably heard about this movie turns out to be true. This one really isa clunker. Full to brimming with every used-up cliché in the book, this scare-less, bloodless, witless farce of a film cheats on every promise it made in the prologue by resorting to the over-used gimmick of having every conceivable camera trick employed to help tell its meagre and wholly yawn-inducing tale. In fact, if you could remove all the time-wasting trick shots that dominate the proceedings then you'd be left with a five minute film - the prologue, itself. Perhaps, if the makers had just left it at that we'd have been better off?
Years later, Tim (Stephen Dorf-alike Barry Watson)is still haunted by the memory of his father's bizarre disappearance and only returns to the house of his childhood upon the death of his mother, a blink-and-you'll-miss-her Lucy Lawless with some rather inept old-age makeup. Despite everyone emphasising that there isn't a real boogeyman at large and that his dad just upped and left, Tim suspects otherwise and isn't at all surprised when creepy things begin to happen all over again, threatening his blonde babe girlfriend, Jessica and his childhood sweetheart, Kate.
Now, I remember Darkness Falls receiving a similar pasting upon its release and then finding, to my pleasant surprise, that I actually quite enjoyed it. Okay, it was nothing but playful, cosy horror for the PG13 audience, but it was still atmospheric, populated with some quite engaging characters and had a reasonably cool monster. Nothing but pure hokum then and all the more entertaining for it. So, with that in mind, I was hoping to be the one to put the record straight and defend director Stephen Kay's kid-friendly fright-fest as simply more of the same. But, in my heart of hearts, I cannot hide the dismal sense of despondency I grew to feel at the latest example of Hollywood's hollow horror. It gives me no pleasure at all to report that Boogeyman is the worst thing I have seen for a long, long time - a sanitised, aimless red-herring of a movie.
“Something happened in that house ... but it wasn't supernatural.”
Do you want to see movies that feature endless scenes of people doing the dumbest things imaginable - entering dark, creepy old houses and shouting peoples' names out, even though it is patently obvious that something horrible is about to happen? Do you want to endure a plot that quite clearly doesn't know where it is going and suffer characters so one-dimensional and banal that you simply don't care what happens to them? Do you want to watch a horror film that steadfastly refuses to give you the payoff you've earned after sitting through long sequences of supposed suspense-building? You do? Well, this is the one for you. It's even got lashings of lousy dialogue, too. Padded out with heaps of cheesy exposition, a clutch of TV “Movie Of The Week” performances, annoying child stars and the most pathetic whirligig camera moves yet committed to celluloid. Seriously, check out Tim's initial return home for two minutes of utterly pointless cinematography to give just one example. But, it doesn't end there. Oh no. Kay feels compelled to throw in lots of those really annoying flash-cuts and even they've got frame-jumps slotted within them. Jarring, ineffective and we've seen it all before in much more accomplished hands than his. It is as though Kay has realised that he's got Sam Raimi backing this picture and he's doing his utmost to showcase his own wacky, inventive side to the true master - he even replicates the scene from The Evil Dead when the victims' car crawls up towards the fateful cabin. Such overkill drowns what little there is of a movie and just becomes boring. He even briefly attempts the camera crawl up a snarling door done so marvellously well in the original The Haunting. When Raimi filmed Bruce Campbell alone in that cabin in the Tennessee woods it was challenging, fresh and heightened the tension considerably with a visual panache that served the film around it - here, we get zooms, under-cranking, over-cranking, forced-perspective, shots that spiral, shots that crawl, fly, pan and whip until you feel like you've been on one of those dodgy fairground rides and they add absolutely nothing to the film. It's like a game of pass the parcel - all wrapping and a rather sad little present underneath it all.
“Hellooo ... anybody home?”
Even the score by Xena regular Joseph Loduca is a washout. This guy worked wonders with a sublime, rich and exotic soundtrack for Christophe Gans' excellent Brotherhood Of The Wolf (one of my all-time favourite movies) but here he just seems to be slumming it with some terribly lazy underscoring that delivers zero emotion, or atmosphere. Whilst I'll admit that it is slightly refreshing to have a horror attempt a bit more characterisation and not just resort to blood and guts, the writers seem to have forgotten that we have to have a set of rules to which the plot adheres - not just a vague idea that sees them pitching in such idiocies as time and space displacement and a totally unfeasible final reel that smacks of a committee realising with horror that they've got to end this fiasco somehow. As a treatment of childhood trauma this could have worked, but with a hackneyed script that reveals nothing interesting about the titular Boogeyman or, indeed, his motivations, we are left with merely a jumble of interminably boring scenes revolving around a psychosis-ridden protagonist reacting to creaks and lame flashbacks in an old house that is full of false alarms. That said though, just take a gander at the scene where adult Tim gets stuck in the closet. It's a hoot. Surely a candidate for the most unintentionally hysterical scene of the year. Any attempt at creating terror was irredeemably lost right there and don't get me started on the Boogeyman, himself. If this critter was causing havoc in your closet, even a three year old could wipe the floor with him.
With this poor offering it seems that Hollywood had better just stick to remaking acknowledged classics of the genre from the Asian market. At least they know what they are doing.