Mark Reviews Movies


1 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Stephen T. Kay

Cast: Barry Watson, Emily Deschanel, Skye McCole Bartusiak, Tory Mussett, Robyn Malcolm, Lucy Lawless

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of horror and terror/violence, and some partial nudity)

Running Time: 1:26

Release Date: 2/4/05

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Review by Mark Dujsik

I must make it clear that Boogeyman is a failure, but I am strangely intrigued by it. Director Stephen T. Kay has taken an incoherent script by three writers (three is becoming the new four in terms of how many people it takes to write a bad script) and turned it into a stylistically effective if completely hollow display of understatement. Nothing actually happens in this movie until its final reel, and yet in the objective distance of the boredom that ensues as a result, you can tell Kay is trying his damnedest to make something and make sense of the empty material. The movie is all exposition—and crude exposition at that. Start the movie at almost any point, and you won't have missed anything. One could look at this as an exercise in building dread, but the only problem is there's no sense of dread accompanying it. Instead, the imagery hints at dark things in the shadows and terrifying presences behind closed doors, and it continues to hint and hint until finally it becomes clear that the titular creature apparently has more important things to do.

A young boy lies in bed one restless night, worrying about the shadowy shapes throughout his room. His father finally comes in to check on him and convince him there's nothing to be scared of. As it turns out, daddy is wrong, and he soon violently disappears into the recesses of the boy's closet. Fifteen years later, Tim "I'm Frowning on the Inside Too" Jensen (Barry Watson) has a job, a judgmental girlfriend named Jessica (Tory Mussett), and an apartment completely devoid of any dark recesses. All is going comparatively well, even if he freezes at the sight of an open closet, but spending Thanksgiving with Jessica's family in their big, intimidating mansion is going to be a challenge. On his first night there, though, he has a foreboding dream about his mother, and sure enough, when he calls home, he discovers she's passed away. He leaves Jessica's right away and meets his Uncle "I'll Wear Jeans to My Sister's Funeral If I Want To" Mike (Philip Gordon) at the funeral, who insists he return to his childhood home to take care of some business. His childhood therapist agrees that he spend one night in the house to face his demons, and he decides to do so.

Mike has been fixing up the house, which in this instance means he's thrown plastic tarps around, and in horror movie fashion, everything in it squeaks. As we have seen in the prologue, featuring the creepiest action figure ever, a mechanical crow, and clothing purposely arranged to look ominous, Tim is the kind of guy who likes to creep himself out. So it's no surprise that the movie's most energetic scene of supposed fright involves Tim being attacked by a particularly malicious closet. Little else happens during the course of Tim's stay, so we're forced to endure multiple moments of false scares, cued by a screeching musical sting on the soundtrack. In the meantime, Kay fills the frame with Dutch angles, close-ups of doors opening, and extended sequences of looking around the house. Some of this is more or less interesting to look at, like a shot of a door hinge opening as dry paint peels away from it and a much later shot of nails exiting the boards in which they were driven. Primarily, though, these stylized flourishes only reinforce the idea that nothing of importance is happening on screen.

To fill in the rest of the basically nonexistent story, an old, child crush of Tim's named Kate (Emily Deschanel, sister of Zooey—a fact I only point out because I wondered for a while why Zooey Deschanel would appear in this) shows up and wonders about his mental state and Jessica returns to judge her boyfriend some more. This leads to a sequence that intercuts between the two of them—at the house and getting ready for a bath respectively—that only exists to make us wonder which one's going to mysteriously disappear next. Also, there's Franny (Skye McCole Bartusiak), a little girl who wanders around the Jensen's property and might have some information about the cause of Tim's fearful state. A scene between the girl and Tim is the movie's best, and although I cannot recall a single word of their dialogue, the scene has a hypnotic rhythm of editing their back-and-forth. Eventually, the script gets to the point, and the creature begins to snatch up victims in succession. The scenes are expectedly silly and overblown, as is the final struggle between Tim and a computer-generated Boogeyman. What's strangely appealing about the confrontation is its almost metaphorical nature, suggesting that Tim's fears are the monster's origin and undoing.

The approach of placing all the scares at the end is an interesting choice. They're ridiculous, and getting them out of the way at the end doesn't interrupt the flow as the movie makes its way to the finale. It might work in a different instance, but since there's nothing actually happening until the climax, well, nothing actually happens for most of the movie. Boogeyman is well-made enough, but it simply isn't scary or worth our attention.

Copyright © 2005 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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