Reviewed by: Brett Willis
|Featuring:||Barry Watson, Emily Deschanel, Skye McCole Bartusiak, Lucy Lawless, Robyn Malcolm|
|Director:||Stephen T. Kay|
|Producer:||Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert|
“You thought it was a just a story… but it’s real.”
Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “Set in Chicago, the story tells the haunting tale of a young man traumatized by memories of terrible events he experienced in his childhood bedroom and who, years later, reluctantly returns home to face his fears of a monstrous entity that could be real or merely a figment of his imagination.”
“Thou shalt not nede to be afrayed for eny bugges by night.” (Psalm 91:5, Coverdale Translation, 1535)
In the above verse, where the King James Version reads “terror by night,” Coverdale used the plural of the Middle English word “bugge,” which alternately meant “scarecrow” or “demon” and from which we get the words “bugbear,” “bugaboo,” and “bogeyman” or “boogeyman,” all meaning a “frightening thing.”
However, cheesy its execution, the message of the film Boogeyman is just the opposite of the Scripture passage: that you DO need to be afraid, because the boogeyman is REAL.
Young Tim Jensen experienced the normal fears of something lurking in the closet or under his bed. And it didn’t help that his father (Charles Mesure) told him stories about the Boogeyman. One night, as Tim is paralyzed with fear and sees objects in his room coming to life, Dad comes in to reassure him. But when Dad checks the closet, he’s violently sucked away by something inside it, and is never seen again.
Forward fifteen years. Adult Tim (Barry Watson) has a good job and a girlfriend, Jessica (Tory Mussett). But he spent many years in psychiatric treatment. Of course no one believed his story of how his father disappeared, and the consensus was that it was just his way of coping with desertion. Tim’s apartment is specially-designed with no dark corners. No closets. A transparent-glass-front refrigerator. The doors removed from the cupboards. His bed set directly on the floor, with no crawl space. Nowhere for the Boogeyman to hide.
Forced to visit Jessica’s parents for Thanksgiving, Tim is forced out of his comfort zone. His guest bedroom (which Jessica plans to sneak into and join him later that night) DOES have a closet. AND the bed is on legs. Tim copes as best he can. Jessica does sneak in, in a tank top and panties, gets in bed with Tim and they begin to snuggle. But without warning, Jessica morphs into Tim’s mother (Lucy Lawless). After Mom gives Tim a warning to the effect that he “can’t run from it,” she turns back into Jessica. A moment later, Tim gets a cell phone call that his mother has just died.
The rest of the film is formulaic. Tim goes to his mother’s funeral, then is advised by his childhood psychiatrist to spend one night in the old house in order to banish his fears once and for all. He meets Kate (Emily Deschanel), a neighbor and childhood friend with whom he still has some obvious romantic chemistry. He also meets Franny (Skye McCole Bartusiak), a young girl who has Boogeyman issues of her own.
Character development and plot logic are minimal, since the primary object here is hitting the audience with jump scene after jump scene. The scary music is almost constant. And neither Tim nor anyone else seems prone to turning on the lights in the old house.
While in that house, Tim relives some of his painful childhood memories, including the time when his father shut him up in a closet in order to prove to him that the Boogeyman wasn’t real. But the weirdest stuff happens in the present. I use “present” in a conditional sense, because it turns out that closets are tickets to both space travel (a la Monsters Inc., but not INTENTIONALLY played for comedy) and time travel, and the line between fantasy and reality becomes increasingly blurred.
Profanity is so light as to be almost unnoticeable. Less than a dozen occurrences, all mild.
There’s no outright sexual activity, but Tim and Jessica kiss many times, it’s obvious that they’re lovers, and they’d have had sex on more than one occasion within the story if the supernatural hadn’t kept getting in the way. We see Jessica undressing and getting into the tub, but the camera angles avoid explicit nudity. Later, as the Boogeyman materializes in the tub water (now mixed with sludge) and “takes” Jessica, he holds her aloft, nude, but the scene moves so fast that it’s not possible to tell exactly what we see. Nevertheless, this strange sequence amounts to occult sexual violence.
The overall violence is not extreme in its visuals; but the mixture of violence, gore and contrived scares is certainly not for the young nor the faint of heart. And although the violence isn’t constant, the threat of violence is. That, of course, is the very essence of this type of movie. Drowning, suffocation, being shot with a nail gun and getting sucked into your closet are just routine occurrences in this make-believe world. The key to Tim being finally set free from the Boogeyman is something akin to a Voodoo act. And there’s a sequence implying that many of the children on “Missing” posters were in fact taken by the Boogeyman, which of course trivializes the real-life reasons that children are abducted.
Although the story is weak and manipulative, the cinematography (lighting, angles, tricks) is very good, as is the acting. Lawless and Mesure (who played the title character and the Archangel Michael, respectively, on “Xena: Warrior Princess”) are notable in their bit roles as Tim’s parents. Mussett’s character is meant to be shallow and expendable, and she plays her that way. We want to see Watson’s and Deschanel’s characters get together at the end, and perhaps they do, but it’s an open question. Because this type of film isn’t about character development. Or about romance. It’s about giving you a roller-coaster ride.
There are many films of this genre that dabble far deeper into the occult supernatural than this one does. But I still wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. If you do choose to see it, because you like being scared just for the fun of it, remember that the film’s message is false. The promise (to God’s children) contained in the Scripture passage at the beginning of this review is real. If you’re at rest in Jesus, you DON’T need to be afraid of the terror by night.
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Moderate