Boogeyman (2005)

If you've been dutifully turning out for every horror release of the last few years, you'll swear from the outset that you've seen this one before. Quite apart from the general plot vagueness, non-American location (here, New Zealand) pretending to be the USA, second-hand shockery borrowed from a run of Japanese ghost stories that have been getting their own Western remakes, this seems to tip on many themes and scenes from not-exactly-blindingly-original efforts like They and Darkness Falls, and is doubtless doomed to follow them swiftly out of theatres to the rental racks.

It opens with a primal sequence prologue as a child is terrified of an imaginary boogeyman who apparently lurks in his bedroom closet or disguises himself as clothes thrown over a chair, but takes on actual shape to drag his father into the darkness. Years later, neurotic twentysomething Tim (Barry Watson) is still haunted by this incident – though he has made himself believe that his father just walked out on the family – and lives in an apartment with a transparent fridge and doorless closets. While spending Thanksgiving with his girlfriend (Tory Mussett), Tim is visited in a scary dream by his mad mother (Lucy Lawless) just as, in reality, she dies. Returning to his childhood home for the funeral, Tim encounters an old girlfriend (Emily Deschanel) and a little girl (Skye Cole Bartusiak) who shares his belief in the boogeyman – whereupon the nightmare being manifests again, more people are dragged into the darkness to an unspecified but ghastly fate, and time plays tricks as the hero dashes about, chased by shadows which too literally become a CGI stalker.

Director Stephen Kay, scrabbling around for any gig he can get after the disastrous Get Carter remake, makes sure there's a 'boo' every couple of minutes, often relying on sudden sound effects, but can't make much of a script that wants to be subtle and explicit at the same time, conjuring up childhood phantasms during major wandering-about-in-the-dark-waiting-for-something-to-happen action but still offering a body-count and sacrificing walk-on characters to the darkness in the closet or under the bed. Its revelations are predictable and its monster is just another effect, doing business with dirty bathwater or a flock of evil birds that hark back to Freddy and Dracula films of yore. In the end, Boogeyman fails to establish its own identity or come up with any interesting rationale for its monster to intrude into reality or pick on this particular schmoe.
KIM NEWMAN

First Published In: Venue (issue unknown)


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