With a storyline thinner than the protagonist’s stereotyped rich girlfriend and enough lead-heavy dialogue to sink a movie of twice the caliber, “Boogeyman” is a bloated 86 minutes of overzealous spookiness, to be admired primarily by aspiring sound-effects specialists.
Eight-year old Tim Jenson is scarred for life before the title sequence rolls. He went to bed one night jumping at shadows in his rural, gothic home and watched in horror as his closet violently swallowed his father. Fast-forward fifteen years and Tim (Barry Watson, of TV’s “7th Heaven” mini-fame), now a twitchy lygophobic with a tendency to stand staring at dark closets, has to go back home for a funeral. He alone sees that all dark places — under the bed, in the closet, behind the pantry door — are potential lurking spots for the boogeyman. At the off-hand recommendation of his psychologist and to further the plot, he must face his childhood fears, including that of his supernatural closet. Or did Dad really just run off on the family, leaving Tim to seek a more violent explanation?
The movie cuts to the chase quickly but then wallows in atmospherics. The lengthy character-development scenes ensure plenty of opportunities for Tim to freak himself out, for girlfriend, Jessica, to show how two-dimensional she is, and for childhood friend, Kate, to be sweet and understanding. Guess who the Boogeyman gets? There is not a single scene that director, Stephen Kay (Get Carter), leaves unburdened of ominous portent. The creaking, sighing, screeching house, coupled with unnerving close-ups, quick cuts, and flickering lights might make some audience members seasick and others wish they could TiVo to the final confrontation.
Touches of humor, some genuinely spooky moments, and the occasional flash of decent acting keep this movie a notch above straight-to-video caliber, but do not justify the price of admission. Watching Tim at the child counseling center offers a hint that this movie could be richer, more interesting fare, but then the next scene –a possible boogeyman lurking behind a ceiling tile— tugs us back to the over-the-top forcedness of it all.
Parents should know that this movie tries everything possible to be a scary horror movie but retain its PG-13 rating. Family members disappear violently, animals panic, children are strange, corpses lunge, lights frequently go out for no reason, there is an aural assault of haunting sounds, and no one believes the main character. A character watches as loved ones are tossed around and then taken from him, a child is shut in a closet as a cure for being scared, another child is separated from her family. There are references to sex and a character is naked (non-explicit). Characters drink to drunkenness at a party and there are references to drinking, as well as a jarring product placement.
Families who see this movie might want to talk about the legend of the boogeyman, who appears in many cultures as a warning to misbehaving children. The psychologist discusses how children might turn to supernatural explanations as a coping mechanisms for feelings of loss or powerlessness. How do modern stories use scary characters or the supernatural to guide behavior now? Urban legends often have an element of the supernatural, how might they derive from older tales, like those of the boogeyman?
Families who enjoy watching scary movies together might prefer to watch Poltergeist, The Grudge, The Sixth Sense, or The Shining.