We are now into February, and the month is immediately kicked off by another horror leftover, this time one that was originally slated to be a straight-to-video release. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the original plan was the demise that it deserved, but this is another tacky, over-done spooker that just doesn’t get the job done.
Most people are familiar with the “boogeyman.” He’s the guy who’s hiding under the bed, or in your closet, or the one responsible for the strange noises you hear in the night. The boogeyman is seemingly omnipresent and affects children across the globe.
Tim Jensen (Watson) is just a little boy when he witnesses a horrific event one night; his father is killed before his very eyes and pulled into his closet for eternity by the boogeyman. This clever and well-timed opening sequence will grab you, but don’t be fooled.
Fifteen years later Tim is still having intense nightmares and is essentially living his life in fear. Any doctor would agree that he has severe psychological issues, but an angle on that is never taken. Tim’s mother has just died, and he is now advised by a doctor at his old hospital to spend a night in his old house while collecting her things. I’m no doctor, but that sounds like absolutely atrocious advice for curing an essentially lifelong mental issue.
But, sure enough Tim returns to his old stomping grounds and immediately begins experiencing strange phenomena, some bordering on the paranormal. He has flashbacks to certain events that took place within the house, including memories of his mother, Mary (Lawless, severely underused in this feature). Every new door opened in the house contains some sort of horrific jolt or surprise for Tim, and he soon realizes that the boogeyman is still alive and well.
He is not alone. Little Franny (Bartusiak) also knows of the boogeyman and the horrors that he can create. Tim’s childhood friend, Kate (Deschanel), also turns up to try and solve the mystery of the boogeyman. Is Tim imagining everything? Is the boogeyman only after Tim or the people he cares about most?
Boogeyman opens with a very well-done sequence that establishes the efficiency of the boogeyman. He can basically move at light speed, and we don’t even see him until the very end. But, like most of the other films in this recent rash of wannabe horror movies, Boogeyman gets worse the longer it runs (and it’s only 86 minutes).
The crucial misfire in the film lies in its completely unsatisfying B-grade ending. When we finally do see the boogeyman, we realize that he is basically nothing more than a badly animated skeleton that can move fast and is always one step ahead. The title character is never developed beyond an urban myth and serves as nothing but an invisible villain for the majority of the film. The finale is far too abrupt and leaves far too many questions left to be asked. Questions such as “where does the boogeyman take his victims?” or “why does the boogeyman seemingly only invade Tim’s old house?” The boogeyman is never explored beyond the realm of a one-dimensional force.
Barry Watson (of 7th Heaven fame) does what he can with his severely underwritten role. His job is basically just to look scared and bug-eyed for most of the movie, and that he does well. Emily Deschanel is also underdeveloped, especially for a character that has played a part in Tim’s life since their childhoods. Lucy Lawless is completely wasted in the thankless role of Tim’s mom who dies no more than twenty minutes in.
We realize very early on that Tim is really nothing more than a wall to hang an atrocious soundtrack on. Virtually every normal activity performed in the film is underscored by a violin sting or bass thump. I knew the sound designers had completely lost it when turning on the water to a bathtub gets the violin treatment. Because of this tactic, the movie never comes off as scary, but rather a gimmick device for the uninitiated.
It’s really a shame the characters and story were so underwritten, because director Stephen Kay and the set designers establish a great mood for this film from the get go. It’s a very dark and mundane palette, and the film does achieve a creepy atmosphere throughout. Director Kay also makes excellent use of some crane and dolly shots to give the film a pristine look. Technically the film is well-made, fundamentally it is not.
Even with these flaws, the film is not a complete loss. The film, even as a disappointment, still fares better than either White Noise or Hide and Seek. Teenagers will probably have a blast with the cheap scares and simplistic story, but for horror veterans or those looking for something new, this is not the film to see.
Studio: Screen Gems
Length: 86 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of horror and terror/violence, and some partial nudity.
Theatrical Release: February 4, 2005
Directed by: Stephen T. Kay
Written by: Eric Kripke & Juliet Snowden & Stiles White. Based upon the story by Eric Kripke.
Cast: Barry Watson, Emily Deschanel, Skye McCole Bartusiak, Lucy Lawless, Tory Mussett, Robyn Malcolm