Coming to DVD Tuesday, January 8th
Tobin Bell as Dr. Mitchell Allen
RenÃ©e O’Connor as Dr. Jessica Ryan
Danielle Savre as Laura Porter
Jarrod Bailey as Young Henry
Matt Cohen as Henry
David Gallagher as Mark
Michael Graziadei as Darren
Chrissy Griffith as Nicky
Tom Lenk as Perry
Lesli Margherita as Gloria
Johnny Simmons as Paul
Mae Whitman as Alison
Directed by Jeff Betancourt
The task seemed easy enough. But, goddamn, did they screw it up. Writers Eric Kripke (“Supernatural”), Juliet Snowden, Stiles White and director Stephen Kay had little to work with but a blank canvas when they set out to create “Boogeyman” for Ghost House Pictures. Unlike other horror villains, the concept of the boogeyman isn’t shackled to any baggage. No history confines him to a set of rules. His guise could be anything. His powers, limitless. Making a film about a universal childhood fear is an open door to the imagination. Alas, 2005’s supernatural yawner starring Barry Watson (relegated to a newspaper photo cameo in the sequel) was a befuddling exercise in style over substance. The ultimate example in a realm of horror I like to call the “walking around and doing nothing” picture: People skulk around moody locales. They get spooked. Tension is flaccid. We get bored, go home and take a nap. Shoehorning in a bit of time travel didn’t help “Boogeyman’s case either, nor did the titular killer’s big reveal. At the end of the day, what was he? A CGI reject from Stephen Sommer’s “The Mummy.” Blah-blah double-blah.
Because some people demanded a follow-up (who are these people?) and because “Boogeyman” was a lucrative project, Ghost House embarked on a second chapter. Director Jeff Betancourt’s film premiered at the Los Angeles Screamfest this month preceded by writer-director Ben Ketai’s saucy take on big city relationships in a vampire short film entitled “Suck.” And my, what stark contrasts do these two films have. Where “Suck” is a tight and clever, “Boogeyman 2” (bowing on DVD January 8, 2008) is laborious with decent exploitation value at best. To rank it better than its ’05 predecessor isn’t say much, but it is a notch – and I do mean a notch – more entertaining. If the first film was brimming with atmosphere, the sequel is hindered with heavy-handed, thrill-killing melodrama and lapses in logic that, once again, make this boogeyman jaunt a major strike out.
Laura Porter (Savre) and her brother, Henry (Cohen), witness the butchering of their parents at a young age. Police reports say a hooded intruder was behind the murders but the Porter siblings know better – it was “the boogeyman.” All grown up, Laura remains haunted by her past while Henry has opted to seek help via a stay at a psychiatric facility. The two prove to be indisputably close, and writer Brian Sieve, intentionally or not, has given them a subtle incestuous edge that I haven’t seen this potent since Cuthbert and Murray exchanged longing glances in the “House of Wax” remake. Nevertheless, Henry, touting the wonders of the treatment he received, convinces Laura to check herself into the clinic run by Dr. Allen (Bell) and Dr. Ryan, played by “Xena” co-star Renee O’Connor – you see, because the first “Boogeyman” had Lucy Lawless and O’Connor is…oh, forget it.
Surrounded by a handful of patients afflicted by their own phobias, Laura’s situation is not so dissimilar from Patricia Arquette’s ordeal in “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.” She enters a few sessions, struggles with her dread of the boogeyman then watches on as the bodies of her newfound pals begin to pile up all around her. And guess what? They’re dying by what they fear the most. So, you’ve got the kid who’s afraid of the dark torn asunder running down a pitch black hallway, the clean freak meets a poisonous demise, and so on. Laura blames the boogeyman. The good doctors of this facility – which strangely doesn’t appear to house any patients other than the principle cast! – are convinced these are mere accidents. Sure. Overt themes of “masks” and “suppressed emotions” announce the finale well ahead of its time leaving the audience to tally just how many times the light bulbs will flicker out and wonder what kind of hospital would allow its patients open access to the medical supply room, or anywhere for that matter.
Silly business like this, bizarre character decisions – Laura discovers a “cutter” doing her thing in the shower, yet doesn’t report it to Dr. Ryan – and an overall lack of anything suspenseful bog this film down. It’s pacing is a huge detriment. Case in point: Laura, on the run from the, ahem, “boogeyman” hides out in a filing room. She waits until her attacker leaves, then waits…waits…grabs a lighter and…waits…waits. And we’re waiting for something, anything to happen. Hell, I’d take an obvious boo gag if they had one to spare. But, it’s on to the next scene of Laura running down a hallway.
“Boogeyman 2” isn’t consistently this sloppy. Betancourt is working from a low-budget and he has hashed together a fine-looking film that’s technically competent. The dull story and characters (the cast makes due with the material) are not nearly arresting enough to maintain interest, however. Extended scenes of droning dialogue can be significantly paired down and the gore gags (which there are a-plenty, I’m happy to report) would have had more kicked if they were accompanied by some creepy build-up. Yes, this is standard by-the-numbers teen horror fare disguised with a generous amount of violence; curiosity-seekers wondering how this film connects with the first need only apply. With two failed attempts to put the “boo” in “boogeyman,” I’m throwing my hands up in frustration and setting any remnants of old terrors from my youth behind me. In this new era of horror, that dark lurker in the closet isn’t quite as scary as he used to be.