Boogeyman Review

In one of the two featurettes housed on the disc, director Stephen Kay – the man responsible for the much maligned Get Carter remake – describes Boogeyman as a “people movie with scary stuff in it”. Elsewhere Robert Tapert, one of the producers alongside Sam Raimi, speaks of it in light of the current wave of Asian horror. The idea that both are trying to get across is that Boogeyman isn’t your standard American horror fare, that is to say that it neither assembles a nubile young cast only to dispatch of them in a variety of ways, nor does it do so with a self-referential glint in its eye. However, this isn’t to say that the film is as fresh as the filmmakers think it is as the spectre of M. Night Shyamalan hangs heavy over this production. Though his influence hasn’t been quite as pronounced as some may have expected, his work from The Sixth Sense onwards has demonstrated three elements: intelligence, a twist ending and an autumnal palette. Boogeyman hopes for the first, ignores the second and shamelessly rips off the third.

Much like They and a certain brand of short film animation, Kay’s film focuses on childhood fears and their reappearance in, or continuation into, adulthood. Pre-credits we see Timmy’s father investigate his son’s closet only to disappear courtesy of the eponymous entity. Fifteen years later and Timmy is now Tim (Barry Watson), our bland twentysomething hero who’s still afraid of closets and has been repeatedly told that his problems are psychological rather than real. Following the death of his mother (a barely recognisable Lucy Lawless) he decides to return to the creaky old isolated house of his childhood for one final night in order to exorcise his demons.

At roughly the halfway point Boogeyman’s Shyamalan steals begin to make sense, and not simply because Tim starts to see dead people. It becomes clear that the filmmakers are intending their movie to be of a greater psychological depth than is the norm. As such the abundance of dead leaves, bleached out photography and low-key casting would appear to be an attempt at realism, or at the very least a concerted effort on the makers’ part to remove themselves from any overt cartoon-ish elements. The attempt is admirable and the unassuming nature does keep Boogeyman interesting, especially alongside the brasher rhythms of Th13teen Ghosts and House on Haunted Hill (though Kay doesn’t quite have the discipline to sustain such a mood and at times errs towards the overly tricksy), but ultimately proves worthless. Much of the duration is occupied by either Watson being the sole on-screen participant or by an attempt to tease the audience in guessing as to whether his memories and fears are in fact true. Neither works especially well, however, as in the first instance Watson proves too lightweight to suggest any psychological depth, let alone damage. And in the second, it is forever abundantly clear that the film will end with an over the top showdown between our hero and the titular boogeyman. That the filmmakers also rip-off the old B-movie technique of revealing the creature/demon/whatever in the final scenes just shows how willing they are to emulate other sources. Boogeyman may feel like a different film in the context of current US horror norms, yet each of its constituent parts are wholly familiar.

The Disc

Unsurprisingly, Boogeyman comes to DVD with a fine presentation. The muted colour palette is handled well with blacks being solid but also providing the requisite level of definition. The film is presented anamorphically at a ratio of 1.78:1 and demonstrates no technical problems to speak of. Indeed, being such a recent production, the image looks as good as could be expected. The same is also true of the soundtrack, with Universal supplying Boogeyman with an impressive DD5.1 offering. Unsurprisingly, given the film’s atmosphere, this is a complex mix with notable use of the rear channels. More to the point, this offering also demonstrates nothing in the way of technical difficulties.

As for the extras, Universal have supplied a pair of featurettes, a handful of deleted/alternative scenes, plus storyboards and visual effects comparisons. These latter two are self-explanatory and hardly deserving of your attention, but the remaining efforts prove more enticing. The first featurette, entitled ‘Evolution of a Horror Film’, covers much of Boogeyman’s production and is interesting inasmuch as it demonstrates how, at the very least, its makers are trying to move the mainstream horror film in a different direction even if they don’t succeed. The second is a more general affair and fills in the gaps not covered by the first. As such it’s a scrappier affair, though does at least discuss the personnel – director of photography, etc. – who are generally ignored by such EPK fare. As for the deleted/alternative scenes, these offer little that is essential, though there is an alternative ending which may provoke some interest. That said, it’s as befuddling as the one which made the final cut.

Unlike the main feature, all of the extras comes without English subtitles.

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