starring Jaden Piner, Rob Zabrecky, Aurora Perrineau, Charley Palmer Rothwell
written by Luke Jaden & Diane Michelle
directed by Luke Jaden
by Walter Chaw Luke Jaden's feature-length hyphenate debut (he co-wrote the script with Diane Michelle), Boo! is an insular family drama framed against a chain-letter premise involving one religious family's decision not to participate in paying a Halloween prank forward. What follows are a lot of jump scares and some on-the-nose dialogue that could have benefited, I think, from more workshopping. The problem is that the picture wants very badly to be about the toll of religious fundamentalism on the development of children (a well-taken point, of course), but it becomes the proselytizer itself with its straw-man of a bible-thumping patriarch, James (Rob Zabrecky), set up to bear the brunt of the film's sins. His constant references to the "good book" feel unnatural, rehearsed, what a movie evangelical would say. When his wife Elyse (Jill Marie Jones) reveals a tragedy in their past and her unwillingness to go to James at a point of crisis because of what he would say, it raises the question of how it is these people ended up together in the first place and why, exactly, Elyse has fallen from the flock, if in fact she's done so.
There are a couple of good dread moments, the best of which sees Caleb looking through a ViewMaster that appears to be the point-of-view of something coming up to the door. I did like a scene where Mr. Pious reads the eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth passage out of an old Bible and starts dropping teeth. Imagine the version of this film where the religious family gets a haunted Bible and all the creepy, perverse shit in there begins happening to them. As it is, there's not a lot happening in Boo!'s underneath. It compares in structure to the recent Terrified from Argentina, but it fails to maintain a concept for as long or as successfully. It can't seem to hold an idea in its head beyond that it's bad when families drift apart and good when they don't. And then there's a startle, some stressed elocution, and finally a horror-movie epilogue that behaves like a perfunctory afterthought. For all that, Jaden has a nice way with an image and a fair sense of pace. Let's see what he can do with a better script.