THE BOOGEYMAN (1980)
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The Boogeyman is another film I saw in a theater back in the day when low budget stuff like this could be seen on the big screen. It’s a cheesy, somewhat amateurish, slasher/supernatural horror that has earned a reputation as a cult classic.
The movie opens with two small children Lacey (Natasha Schiano) and Willy (Jay Wright) watching their philandering mother (Gillian Gordon) getting it on with one of her various lovers. They get caught and her partner (Howard Grant) takes it out on the older Willy, cruelly tying him to his bed. Lacey waits till her mother and the jerk she’s with move their activities to the bedroom and cuts Willy free with a large kitchen knife. Willy then takes the knife and goes to his mom’s bedroom where the little boy carves up the man, while Lacey watches it reflected in a mirror on the wall. We then cut to 20 years later where Lacey (Suzanna Love) is grown up with a family of her own and still taking care of Willy (Nicholas Love), who hasn’t spoken since the incident. Lacey has her own mental scars and her husband Jake (Ron James), in an effort to free her of what haunts her, takes her back to her mom’s old house. Seeing the mirror again triggers a vision of the murdered man and she breaks it in a fear filled rage. Her husband takes the broken mirror back to their home…this guy’s a real therapist, isn’t he…where they soon discover the angry spirit of the murdered lover resides within the mirror and breaking it has set him free to kill anyone caught in the mirror’s glare!
Written and directed by Ulli Lommel this film has a few effective moments here and there, but is a slightly amateurish film with some very cheesy sequences…though that can be fun. The film combines a slasher flick, with victims being slain by the murderous spirit one by one in graphic ways, with a supernatural horror, as our killer is a ghost and eventually a priest is called in to try to stop him. The heavy Halloween influence is obvious with certain camera shots and the electronic score by Tim Krog, which evokes Carpenter’s scoring work, and the title itself referencing the legendary character as did the classic Carpenter thriller. The film does do it’s own thing, but Lommel really doesn’t generate much suspense and some of the kills are borderline silly and poorly executed. The most effective sequences are the opening flashback…the scene with young Willy being bound to his bed by their mother’s guest, who is wearing a stocking over his head, is very uncomfortable…and a surreal dream sequence where Lacey finds herself bound and gagged to a bed like Willy was, but with someone (Willy?) about to savage her with a kitchen knife. The overblown final confrontation with the malevolent spirit is also kinda fun, if not a little silly. The plot as a whole is a bit convoluted. The idea that Lacey’s husband would bring her to her old house so abruptly and then take the broken mirror home and put it up, is quite a stretch. The fact that shards wind up all over the place and that anyone caught in a shard’s glare is murdered, is a plot device that only serves to up the body count and it makes no sense that the dead man would kill random victims instead of focusing his rage on the family…was he a serial killer to begin with?… We never find out, not even his name. And since most of our victims are random, they evoke little emotional reaction from the audience as they are no one you really care about or particularly like. There are some funny scenes along the way, including some of the murders and I, even upon my recent revisit, have trouble deciding if they are intentional or not. But they are cheesy fun.
The cast are all fairly wooden. The pretty Suzanna Love (who was also Mrs. Lommel at the time) has a few moments here and there, but is otherwise a bit bland. Her best scenes are when acting with the boy playing her son (Raymond Boyden), so maybe the mommy thing suits her. She does have a girl-next-door beauty that definitely qualifies her as a MILF and that certainly gives her appeal. Nicholas Love (Suzanna’s real-life brother) basically does little but stand around looking distressed as Willy and Ron James is pretty wooden as Lacey’s husband Jake. The only person who performs with a little life is legendary actor John Carradine, in a small role, as Lacey’s psychiatrist Dr. Warren.
Overall, the nostalgia factors of both being a very early 80s style movie and having seen it with friends at the now long-gone Fox Theater in Hackensack, are far more effective than much of the movie itself. It has a few moments and the cheese factor can be entertaining, but as a serious attempt at horror it’s a bit goofy and has a slightly amateurish feel…though it does have it’s chills and Lommel creates some atmosphere in the flashback opening, dream sequences and the final confrontation climax. The cast are all fairly bland and the fact that we know little or nothing about the ghostly killer doesn’t help strengthen his character either. I still recommend this to anyone who is a fan of, or is discovering films of this era. It is fun, but just don’t quite expect the classic it is sometimes referred to as. The film was fairly successful and spawned two semi-sequels.
Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) mirror shards.