While the word “boogeyman” may sound more funny than frightening to today’s young ears, everybody knows what one is. He’s the thing under the bed. The critter in the closet. The writhing wraith in the corner.
In 1985, an episode of The Twilight Zone called The Shadow Man (written by Rockne S. O'Bannon, directed by Joe Dante) summed the whole concept up beautifully, while sending it up but still managing to be scary and memorable all at once. I have never forgotten it.
While I suspect my memory may not be as steadfast when it comes to 2005’s Boogeyman, I can’t say I wasn’t entertained by the film. TV pretty boy Barry Watson plays Tim, an upwardly mobile Gen-Y’er who has never been able to get past witnessing the brutal death of his father at the hands of the lethal boogeyman who lived in his boyhood closet. (I thought boogeymen only killed kiddies, but I’ll buy it — the scene, the movie’s opener, was a good grabber.)
When Tim’s mother (played by the woefully underused Lucy Lawless) dies, he must go back to the unhallowed halls of his childhood home where dark memories — and a certain boogeyman — await him. A couple of pretty girls (Tory Mussett and Emily Deschanel) are thrown into the mix for no apparent reason (not that horror movies have ever needed a reason for putting pulchritude in peril) but this really is Watson’s movie. He is in nearly every scene, and he has to carry the story from start to finish. He does an admirable job, perhaps an even better one than it might seem at first blush since the character of Tim is not particularly well drawn.
The cinematography is utilitarian and the music score is loud, punctuated with big ‘boo!’ pangs. The script is bland — don’t expect any mystery or suspense — but director Stephen Kay coaxes out as much creepiness as could be had. I won’t specify anything for the sake of those who hate spoilers, but Boogeyman goes down some dark alleys without exploring them and leaves an awful lot of loose ends hanging.
We don’t really see the Boogeyman until the end and contrary to the popular formula, I believe this might have been a mistake. There’s a quick scene where we see the preternatural predator prowling a staircase, and he is really sinister-looking — ! — had I seen that a little earlier on, I might have felt at least some vicarious fear with Tim. But by the time I actually saw the nightmare I’d been bombarded by so many fake-outs I was blasé.
If you’re 12 years old, or if you scare easily, Boogeyman is not a bad way to spend an hour and a half. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t mean that as a slam or a left-handed compliment. I’m simply reviewing the movie based on what I believe to be the fact that Boogeyman was made to be a straightforward, uncomplicated, basic horror movie aimed squarely at the PG-13 demographic. It doesn’t go above-and-beyond like PG-13s The Others or The Ring, but it’s not the drudge The Grudge was, either. (Incidentally, Sam “Spider-Man” Raimi produced both The Grudge and Boogeyman).
Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson