** (out of 5)
February 4, 2005
Barry Watson as TIM JENSEN
Emily Deschanel as KATE
Skye McCole Bartusiak as FRANNY
Lucy Lawless as MARY JENSEN
Tory Mussett as JESSICA
Studio: Screen Gems
Directed by: Stephen T. Kay
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I know that Hollywood isn’t exactly the most creative industry in the world. It is notorious for making lame sequels, remakes and rip-offs. Just look at the upcoming 2005 release schedule, and you’ll see creatively vacuous films like a big-screen adaptation of “Bewitched” or a Bernie Mac remake of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” on the horizon.
And when it comes to horror films, you really shouldn’t expect too much in terms of creativity or originality. This is the industry that brought you “Freddy vs. Jason,” after all.
But even knowing all this, I still had some hope for “Boogeyman.” More than anything else, the factor that gave me hope was that it was produced by Ghost House, which is Sam Raimi’s company that most recently gave us “The Grudge” (one of the best horror films in recent years, in my opinion). Plus, there is plenty of potential for a good Boogeyman movie. (Of course, it’s hard to top the quintessential Boogeyman movie, the original “Halloween.”)
But in spite of this much opportunity, it was all wasted. And it became clear within the first scene that it was all going to be wasted. The movie opens with a little kid in his bed who is scared to death to go to sleep. We’ve all been there before – seeing shapes in the shadows and hearing noises that we are sure is a monster. Only the impenetrable covers can save us.
But when the boy’s father comes in the room to show him that no one is there, he is suddenly attacked by a formless creature from the closet. Cut to fifteen years later, and adult Tim (Barry Watson) is trying to live a normal life in his 20s with constant fears of closets and dark places. After he gets word that his mother has passed away, Tim travels back to his old house where he must face his fears of the Boogeyman in the closet.
Director Stephen T. Kay knows nothing about suspense. Oh, he can plan some really cool cinematic shots, and he knows how to make an audience jump. But these jumping scenes happen so often that they lose their effect literally within five minutes of the film. Too much of a good thing usually ruins it.
Not that you expect Shakespearean levels of depth in the plot for a film like this, but like I said, I was hoping for something more than just a series of jump scenes. But the writers gave us nothing. And whenever they tried something different or creative, like when Tim discovers the Boogeyman’s way to move from house to house, it actually becomes more confusing or is overdone.
Plot points are added without any sort of set-up. For example, in one scene, Tim tells someone that he has been to a spooky house on the street and talked with the guy who lives there. This isn’t a bad set-up if it would have come in the first half of the film. However, the explanation is just tossed in right before he enters the house, almost as an afterthought.
And then there’s the fact that this movie rips off some horror films of recent years – including “They” and “Darkness Falls.” (They didn’t even rip off the classics, for crying out loud!) At least in the film “Darkness Falls,” when the boy who is scared of the dark is shown all grown up, he lives in Las Vegas so he doesn’t have to deal with darkness. In “Boogeyman,” the main character lives in constant fear of dark places, yet he works in a dimly lit office, walks home through a dark and creepy park and generally passes by every dark closet and corner he can find.
We have seen plenty of substandard horror films hit the screens in the past month or so – from “White Noise” to “Hide and Seek.” I never thought of January and February as the big release time for scary movies. But after a pretty good Halloween season last year, maybe this is when everyone’s trying to sneak out their films that couldn’t hold a candle to “Saw” and “The Grudge.”