Boogeyman (2005)

Reviewed By Rob Gonsalves
Posted 12/29/06 08:15:42

"All I ask of a horror movie is that it be fun or scary or both. Okay?"
1 stars (Total Crap)

Ever gone to one of those "haunted houses" where you end up wandering through pitch-black hallways while things jump out at you loudly? That describes too many horror movies these days, and it especially sums up "Boogeyman," a film I wouldn't recommend to anyone with a heart condition -- not because it's so terrifying, but because the damn thing is like having someone scream "Boo!" in your ear every five minutes.

The cumulative effect is less scary than irritating. Epileptics might want to steer clear of Boogeyman, too, as its shocks depend a lot on rapid-fire subliminal flashes of supposedly horrific images. Everyone else merely risks slow death by boredom.

Fifteen years ago, a little boy cowers in his bed from some unseen thing in his closet. His dad reassures him that there's nothing there, but apparently the Unseen Thing hasn't gotten the memo, because it makes short work of poor Dad. Cut to the present day: the little boy has grown up to be Tim (Barry Watson, of Sorority Boys and TV's 7th Heaven), who works at a city magazine when he isn't leaving all the lights on in his apartment and casting a wary eye at every closet he sees. Tim has king-size issues -- he still visits the juvie psych ward that treated him as a kid -- and the official story is that his dad just took off and that Tim processed the abandonment by concocting a Boogeyman that took Dad. Of course, if that were the case, we wouldn't have a horror movie.

We barely have one anyway. The idea of the Boogeyman has powered many a nightmare; Stephen King's early short story of the same name is a nasty little item that reads like a dry run for Pet Sematary (it also inspired a poorly-made low-budget short film), and there was an amusing, if baffling, 1980 thriller called The Boogeyman, about a haunted mirror. John Carpenter also gave his famous killer Michael Myers the nickname in the original Halloween ("It was the boogeyman," said Jamie Lee Curtis; "As a matter of fact," agreed Donald Pleasance, "it was"). So I was up for a decent horror flick tackling this childhood terror. What I got instead was a thinly plotted clothesline of shock effects and a monster, when we finally see it, that looks like a lame ripoff of the three ghastly, silent killers in the superior Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Hush."

Watson, who should probably stick to TV and drag, makes an annoyingly wimpy hero, and an asexual one, too, though Tim has a hot girlfriend (Tory Mussett), and another childhood friend (Emily Deschanel) who has a major crush on him. More bewildering still, Tim apparently came from the loins of Lucy Lawless, who has a pointless cameo here in a flashback as Tim's mom. Lawless hasn't been doing much since Xena ended except tiny roles in films produced by her husband Rob Tapert and his partner Sam Raimi, who founded the company Ghost House to put out medium-budget PG-13 spook shows (their first was The Grudge). It's nice that Raimi, who made his name as the hyperactive director of the Evil Dead films, wants to keep his hand in horror, but it would be nicer if these movies amounted to anything but making a quick buck.

I'm sick of the supernatural, too. Ghosts have become the new slashers -- overworked monsters in an exhausted genre. The Sixth Sense started it, and the Ring remake kicked it into overdrive. For a while, it was refreshing to see old-school horror that didn't rely on dumb teenagers being isolated and butchered, but now we have dumb teenagers (or dumb adults) being isolated and...startled a lot. It will continue, I fear, until another horror movie comes out of nowhere and makes $200 million, and then everyone will rip that off for five years.

Anyone want to predict the next trend? I'm sort of hoping for a giant-monster comeback. While we wait, though, tepid seat-jumpers like "Boogeyman" exist to kill part of a Saturday night.

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