Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Young Timmy is awake at night in the dark. Objects in his room take on momentary life and then the light comes on, revealing, for example, a hooded villain sitting on his chair to be a robe Timmy has lain out earlier in the evening. The lights go out and the room comes alive once again. Hearing commotion from Timmy's room, Timmy's dad comes into the room, with reassuring words about old wives tales and empty closets. But the room snaps into momentary shadow and in the dark Timmy's dad is yanked into the closet and is never seen again.
15 years later, adult Timmy has buried the memory deep in his mind and has accepted everyone's explanation that his dad ran away. He now works for a college paper and, while spending Thanksgiving with his girlfriend's family (see? it's a holiday horror film!) he receives word that his mother has just died. He goes home for the funeral and to confront some of those awful memories with a night in his old home, only to discover that the Boogeyman isn't through with him.
I'm noticing a pretty clear hierarchy to scares in horror movies. The Leprechaun is pretty much on the lowest rung -- he presents a clear threat, but until he's got you cornered and is completely mangling you, he's more irritating than he is scary. On the next rung up, we find creatures that present a clear threat and are intimidating for any number of reasons, but that remain an organic threat, something you can think around if you understand it. I can't think of a movie example, maybe one of you will, but the thing that comes to mind is a tiger. Obviously scary, but with some thought and luck, you can overcome it. Next rung up are the inorganic beings. These are characters that present a such a formidable and unstoppable threat, they cut right to your terror centers. Jason and Michael Myers belong to this category.
Above that exists characters like Freddy Krueger and the Boogeyman. Not only do they present a threat, they are in control of fear in its purest form. They come at you from all directions and the direction from which you are least prepared to deal with them is exactly the side from which they take you down. Think of Tim Curry in It, "I am every nightmare you ever had. I am your worst dream come true. I'm everything you ever were afraid of."
Is the film Boogeyman successful in capturing that feeling? Yes and no.
One of the things I liked best about the movie's approach is that it leaves little nuggets of fear pretty much everywhere you look. Characters don't so much enter certain shots as they emerge like phantoms from the backgrounds. Also, everywhere Timmy goes, people seem to be watching him. It's shot in that same moody grey as in the Ring. If we're calling the film effect in the TCM movies "squalor," I'd call this color scheme "gloom." The dread of the first hour is pretty thick.
The movie loses its momentum when it tries to step out of its dread. Eventually we get to see the boogeyman and it's a disappointment -- its look reminded me of the virtual dude in the Lawnmower man. Also the movie plays around with dimensions: doors open in one building and lead into others miles away, characters leap in and out of the sequence of time. It gets a little bewildering and in doing so, sacrifices that dread which should be the most powerful weapon in its arsenal. For what is the boogeyman but unlimited fear; the moment it assumes a face, that fear has limits, if not so much for the characters who are in the room with that dread and can feel how far it reaches, then at least for us as we can only see it and hear it, not sense it.
The movie's strongest moments are when it's exploring the fears of the people who see the Boogeyman. I particularly liked a side-story about a father who loses a daughter to the Boogeyman and then straps himself to a chair at the Boogeyman's doorway so that he'd have no choice but to confront him. He doesn't make it. The fear is too massive.
Solid effort, watchable, but it won't blow your mind.