**/**** Image A Sound A Extras C+
starring Barry Watson, Emily Deschanel, Skye McCole Bartusiak, Lucy Lawless
screenplay by Eric Kripke and Juliet Snowden & Stiles White
directed by Stephen Kay
by Walter Chaw Unusually ambitious for a film that seems to have no intention other than to be the celluloid equivalent of Jokey Smurf, Boogeyman is tremendously dislocating at times, even existentially surreal. It posits that a child's worst fears are only conquerable if "faced," leading our hero through the loss of his parents, the rejection of his object choice, and the expulsion from his sanctuary in a children's asylum, until finally he's forced into a situation where he must destroy the totems of his youth to embrace the lonely demystification of his adulthood. There's something really sad going on in Boogeyman: It's about shining a light on the dark corners of the past and vanquishing ghosts, but in the hero's triumph over his nightmares, he casts himself adrift from some of the magic of being a kid.
Consider the opening passage, which, like the nice first third of Darkness Falls, taps into that primal fear of the absence of light, giving a child's darkened bedroom this feeling of feral, ferocious life. Coinciding with the death of his mother, Tim (Barry Watson) has a nightmare about her in the house of his girlfriend's (Tory Mussett) parents. (There's a quick stab at a class struggle between blue-collar Tim and her folks, but it's wasted like so much of what's potentially interesting.) Turns out that Tim's still struggling with memories of his father being snatched away by some invisible horror from his bedroom closet, wondering if what everyone else tells him--that his father abandoned them--is actually true. Once he starts to lose large chunks of his memory and people around him begin to disappear, either the boogeyman's returned, or Tim is a dangerous fruitcake.
It's too bad, then, that Boogeyman falls back on hyper-edited flash cuts and inserts scored at eardrum-shattering decibels. I felt consistently uncomfortable throughout picture, not because of the moody, blue-and-black colour palette or the storyline, but because the film is just a series of slow build-ups and jump scares. It's like standing in a long line to have someone to sneak up behind you and shoot a firework off into the side of your head--and then you stupidly get back in line to do it over again. It's relentless in that way and exhausting, too, and it's fair to wonder if that's a worthy way to spend your time. When the bad guy finally does appear, the disappointment that it's but another CGI phantom is all the more crushing, since Boogeyman (apparently not connected to the Stephen King short story of the same name) has a nice mooring in archetypal imagery and the sort of glimpses at Americana that made In the Mouth of Madness so unexpectedly wonderful. There are a hundred reasons to roll your eyes at Boogeyman--in truth, it's sort of a piece of crap. But, if only for a shot of a little girl skating backwards in front of a white picket fence, the genre fan might be willing to look beyond exactly how derivative and unimaginative the bulk of it is. Originally published: February 4, 2005.
by Bill Chambers Like the movie itself, the bonus features on Sony's Special Edition DVD release of Boogeyman are slick, slapdash, and ultimately dull. ROSAS Productions' "The Making of Boogeyman", for instance, comes in two parts (like some kind of prog-rock ballad), both of which cover little ground in lots of time. In Part I (15 mins.), producer Robert Tapert, soul patch-wearing director Stephen Kay, and actors Barry Watson, Emily Deschanel, Lucy Lawless (Tapert's wife), Tory Mussett, and Skye McCole Bartusiak pore over the plot in agonizing detail while acknowledging Boogeyman's stylistic debt to J-horror. In Part II (20 mins.), key personnel like DP Bobby Bukowski and production designer Robert Gillies are lionized without actually being interviewed--making Lawless's gratuitous presence in these featurettes, however welcome (she's luminous here), seem that much more like nepotism. Watson's straight-faced pledge that he had a childhood run-in with Bigfoot and Kay's unintelligible reflections--Bukowski "treats [the film] like a baby," he says, adding, um, "an emotional baby"--offer comic relief, but not enough to permanently stifle yawns. Other extras include six deleted/extended scenes totalling 13 minutes, one of which finds Watson's Tim tying himself to a chair and Houdini'ing his way out of it with far too much ease when the shit hits the fan.
Dumber still is the alternate ending, what with its scramble-suited Boogeyman and uncomfortable echoes of the door hijinks from the ingenious Monsters Inc.--though as no commentary of any kind accompanies these elisions, we can only hazard to guess the real reasons they wound up on the cutting-room floor. Storyboard animatics for the opening, the climax, and the missing children sequence plus visual effects progression montages for four key illusions round out the film-specific supplementary material. Presented in an excellent 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, Boogeyman itself looks as good as one can expect a movie to look after it's been digitally desaturated by kid-in-a-candy-store filmmakers using grading tools for the first time; clearly, none of the peccadilloes of the image were introduced at the DVD level, though they no doubt become concentrated by the small screen. The sound engineers take a similar approach, egregiously overusing the LFE channel, but at least the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is engaging where the film's icy blue aesthetic practically begs us to tune out. Trailers for Guess Who, D.E.B.S., Man of the House, The Grudge, The Forgotten, Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid, The Cave, Lords of Dogtown, and Stealth round out the platter. Originally published: May 16, 2005.