1980 certainly was the Year of the Slasher. Following on the heels of 1978’s Halloween and 1979’s Tourist Trap, the subgenre was really taking shape. 1980 is best remembered for giving us Friday the 13th, but the year also saw the release of such second tier slasher classics as Prom Night and Terror Train (big year for Jamie Lee Curtis, wasn’t it?).
Unfortunately, 1980 also burdened us with The Boogeyman and we’re all a little lesser for it.
As children, Lacey (Suzanna Love) and Willy (Nicholas Love) murdered their alcoholic mother’s abusive lover (Howard Grant). Ya know, like ya do. Twenty years later, Willy has withdrawn and become a mute while Lacey is still haunted by the memories of that night. Hoping to put her inner demons to rest, Lacey revisits her childhood home where the murder happened and in a fit of rage, destroys an old mirror. Little does she know, trapped within the mirror was the soul of the man they killed, or as she calls him, “The Boogeyman”. Now, wherever a shard of the mirror falls, the Boogeyman’s spirit is free to roam and murder whoever gets in his way.
Director Ulli Lommel seems to have aspirations of being the next John Carpenter. His style is heavily cribbed from Carpenter’s, from the electronic score to the use of startling keyboard sound effects for emphasis. However, Lommel fails to apply these effects with any of the grace of his inspiration, leaving The Boogeyman to feel less like an ode to John Carpenter and more like a cash-in rip-off. You know, like when you go to a thrift store and see a horrible-looking animated film on DVD with a title vaguely similar to a big budget blockbuster from a reputable studio, meant entirely to trick less discriminating shoppers into purchasing it by mistake?
If Halloween was Ratatouille, The Boogeyman would be Ratatoing.
Not that what I’m about to tell you is going to make you drop your monocle into your champagne or anything, but The Boogeyman lacks any sort of story consistency. It’s almost as if it was two scripts that got bisected and then fused down the middle.
When the movie begins, everything points to the mentally scarred Willy as being the title killer. He’s angry, spooky, stupid and prone to fits of near-murderous violence. They take the time out to set Willy up as a red herring or potential suspect, like this movie is going to be a murder-mystery or something.
And then that angle is unceremoniously dropped when Lacey breaks the haunted mirror and sets the Boogeyman’s ghost free. Whatever “murder-mystery” angle Lommel was trying to set up is discarded and The Boogeyman devolves into a series of crudely strung-together vignettes. Every time a shard from the mirror winds up in a different place, objects begin to levitate and murder people (calling them “characters” would be generous). This goes on for a while until the movie remembers it had main protagonists once, and oh yeah, they should probably get some closure or something The inexplicable climax sees Lacey become possessed by the Boogeyman and start melting people’s faces off just by looking at them.
The kills are a little fun, but mostly come across as goofy thanks to the bottom level acting prowess of the cast. You have a girl knife her own throat out with a pair of scissors, a bratty kid get his neck broken by a window pane, two teenagers getting speared through the skull with a barbecue skewer, an old man getting stuck to a wall with a pitchfork, an old lady getting strangled with a garden hose and a priest with a melting face. While the kills are admittedly creative by early slasher standards, they certainly aren’t a worthwhile pay-off for suffering through the dull, incoherent story or the horrendous acting.
Outside of the flashback, the Boogeyman only appears as an invisible entity that levitates objects or causes lots of wacky green and red lighting effects (which seem to Lommel cribbing the style of Dario Argento because this man has no original ideas to speak of). When you *do* see the Boogeyman, he’s a guy with a woman’s stocking stretched over his head. You know, like when people rob banks in movies. If Lommel’s intention was to create a classic masked slasher, ala Michael Myers, he really should have put more effort into the actual mask part (admittedly, Prom Night had the same problem, but at least that movie had Leslie Nielson to take the edge off).
The Boogeyman is an unrewarding slasher film that doesn’t make the most of its ideas and isn’t even sure just WHAT those ideas are supposed to be in the first place. Believe it or not, The Boogeyman scored two sequels: The Boogeyman 2 and Return of the Boogeyman. Before you set a date for your Boogeyman trilogy marathon, be aware that much like Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2, these sequels were made up almost entirely of clips from the first film in order to save money.
Unless you WANT to watch The Boogeyman three times in a row. To each his own.