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Boogeyman
Reviewed by Gary Mitchel, © 2005

Format: Movie
By:   Stephen Kay (director) and Eric Kripke (writer)
Genre:   Horror
Released:   Premiered February 4, 2005.
Review Date:   February 13, 2005
Audience Rating:   Rated PG-13
RevSF Rating:   9/10 (What Is This?)

"Go home Tim. Spend one night in that house. It will help." — Dr. Katie (And she’s so wrong!)

Why, oh why, do I do these things to myself? Why do I inflict such things upon my poor brain? You would think I would know better by now, but like any insane person I keep repeating things that I know are going to cause me trouble.

At least this time it was fun.

Like many horror fans, I have a love/hate relationship with scary movies. I truly enjoy being scared to my wits' end — but when it’s a really, really scary flick, and you have an active imagination like mine, you pay for that pleasure later. Especially when the movie plays on fears that I had not only as a kid but as recently as this week. Here I am, an adult geek, and I still can’t sleep with my feet sticking out from under the covers. If I do, the thing under the bed will grab my ankle and we all know what happens after that. Put me by myself off in the dark, in a creepy old abandoned house or the woods, and my imagination will start amplifying the sounds and shapes into a cornucopia of terrors.

So why, oh why, did I go see Boogeyman? I must be some sort of masochist. That has to be why I see all these horror movies and love them so. It’s why I sit through crap like Alone in the Dark and mediocre flicks like Saw. I’m hoping for that rare, delicious terror that so few horror films instill.

Boogeyman instills it in spades.

So here’s the skinny: Barry ("7th Heaven") Watson is Tim Jenson. When he was about eight, he had a really, really bad night. The various things in his room, in the dark, keep turning into a monster: the jacket on his chair, the action figure on his desk, the branches of the tree outside his window, things that in the daylight are some of his favorite belongings. It doesn’t help that his dad has inflicted stories of The Boogeyman, who lives in the closet, upon his poor son. This night, as dad tries to sooth Tim’s fears, the Boogeyman gets dad, yanking him into the closet to vanish.

We flash forward fifteen years, and Tim has spent a lot of time trying to overcome this event. His psychologist has convinced Tim that he made the event up in response to dad just up and leaving the family. Now an adult, Tim has a job, a fiancée, but he’s still not wrapped all that tight. When he gets news that his mom (Lucy “Xena” Lawless) has died, he starts having hallucinations, and at the advice of his childhood shrink he heads home to clean the place up, go through his mom’s things, face the source of his fears and finally overcome them.

Director Stephen Kay manages to show how scary the mystery of a closed door can be. The music and sound effects make every room a haunt of hidden fear, and a near-constant breezes keeps the drapes, hanging plastic and leaves drifting around on screen, hinting that something lurks just out of sight.

Watson delivers a solid performance as a guy who may just be crazy, and believably, infectiously exudes his character’s fear. I also enjoyed Emily Deschanel as his former childhood friend Kate and Skye Bartusiak as Franny, a little girl who also believes in the Boogeyman.

Most of the scares in the film fall into the two usual categories: The “BOO!” moment and the slow, drawn out “what’s in/under/behind there?” Both kinds are very well done. Kay borrows heavily from producer Sam Raimi’s bag of camera angle tricks: Several shots of menacing doors are very close to the ones used in the Evil Dead series, and this is a good thing.

As the movie unfolds, by way of Tim’s memories (or hallucinations), it leads us through the childhood events that shaped Tim into the (possibly crazy) man he grew up into. All this leads to an intense, mind-bending climax that draws everything together like a wonderful jigsaw puzzle.

There are a few flaws in the flick, but nothing fatal. The ending confrontation is a bit over the top, and there are a few questions left dangling, but these problems all are small potatoes compared to the movie's exquisite terror and nail-biting tension.

However, this film may not work for everyone. It relies on the viewer's imagination and fear of the unknown darkness, of the things that might just be hungrily waiting for you in those spaces. If you’ve never been afraid of the thing in the closet, under the bed, outside the window, and under the bridge, or it's been so long that you can’t relate to that fear anymore, then this film won’t get you in a white-knuckle grip.

Between Boogeyman and The Grudge, Ghost House Pictures is batting two for two. God bless Sam Rami and Robert Tapert. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go buy myself a new nightlight to use for the next week or so.

Before he was "Sneezy the Squid," RevolutionSF contributor Gary Mitchel's nickname was "Cringy the Cat."

 
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