The Closet Is Empty
While not original, the premise of Boogeyman has the potential to be very effective at inducing horror -- if done properly. The idea involves playing off of the most innate fears of as many people as possible, hoping to find a large audience. And what fear does nearly every human being experience at one time or another? The fear of dark closets with slightly opened doors, and the dusty crawlspaces under the bed. But where Boogeyman fails is in it reliance upon -- and I'm getting tired of running through this with nearly every new horror film that comes along -- cheap, superficial cinematic effects and loud noises, rather than on true terror inducing storytelling.
Boogeyman's opening sequence is by far the film's most effective one. Unfortunately, things go downhill quickly from there. As a young Timmy lies in his bed, shadows of spooky tree limbs dance across the walls. The shadow cast by his bedside action figure eerily looms across the ceiling. His bathrobe, casually draped over a chair, comes to life as a dark, hooded apparition. Timmy pulls the covers over his head -- retreating to the only safe place he knows. We've all experienced Timmy's fears at some point in our lives and we probably reacted in much the same way. But Timmy's fear of a dark closet becomes a frightening reality as his father enters the room to reassure his son. Timmy's father is violently (and noisily I might add) sucked into the boy's closet and devoured by a boogeyman, never to return.
Jump to fifteen years later where we learn from an adult Tim that the source of his crippling nightmares represents the psychological byproducts of a youngster struggling to cope with the reality of his father walking out on the family many years before. At least that's what the psychologists tell him. But Tim knows what he saw was real, so he reluctantly agrees to spend the night in his boyhood home hoping the experience will finally put an end to his crippling hallucinations.
Foregoing what usually makes for a nicely rounded psychological thriller, Boogeyman never addresses its characters as anything more than cardboard props pushed around on scary-looking sets ready to be pushed down by the next cat that jumps out from behind a door. The absence of the human element seriously degrades the experience, as we're never given a chance to really know Tim. He is merely a distant, remote character experiencing some kind of supernatural nightmares rather than a hero who might help us discover the origin of our own fears of dark places. Without an emotional connection to the viewer, a film can be neither scary nor memorable.
I realize I'm probably expecting too much from this film -- after all it's properly rated PG-13 and marketed at the teenage schlock-horror fan -- but is it asking too much to call for something that resembles a bit of crafty storytelling? Director Stephen T. Kay and writer Eric Kripke do inject some artistic stylings into the film, but unfortunately, Boogeyman is the perfect specimen of style over substance.
Although Boogeyman starts out with a stylishly depicted premise that promises a nightmarish ride into terror, after about twenty minutes the movie falls flat with its cheap terror tactics, its abysmal dialogue and its shamelessly tawdry script.
(Released by Screen Gems and rated "PG-13" for intense sequences of horror and terror/violence, and some partial nudity.)
Review also posted at www.franksreelreviews.com.)