Judge Paul Pritchard thinks a film where boogeyphobia meant a fear of dancing would have been scarier than this.
Fear. In The Flesh.
Coming out after the similarly themed They and Darkness Falls, where childhood terrors come back to terrorize the now-grown-up children they had previously preyed upon, Boogeyman was another case of an interesting premise for a horror movie being flushed down the toilet. Crippled with a desire to make the film a child-friendly PG-13 affair, the film stuttered to a disappointing conclusion before quickly being erased from the viewer's memory.
Well, as many a foreboding trailer voiceover has assured us, evil never really dies, and so here we are with Boogeyman 2 in its uncut glory. This time around they've brought the man who may just be this generation's Robert Englund along with them. That's right! Tobin Bell (Saw) is in the house!
Facts of the Case
Having witnessed the murder of her parent's as a small child, Laura Porter eventually decides to seek help for her crippling fear of the boogeyman, who she insists was responsible for her parent's deaths. Attending an asylum specializing in phobias under the care of Dr. Mitchell Allen, Laura soon discovers the boogeyman may just have checked in with her as the body count begins to rise.
The original Boogeyman is a fine example of the toothless, watered-down horror that has served as the antithesis to the gore-soaked excess of the Saw and Hostel franchises that currently rule the horror genre.
But what set Boogeyman apart was that it came from Ghost House Pictures, the company formed by Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert, yes, the very same people responsible for such greats as the Evil Dead trilogy, Darkman, and the Spider-Man movies. Now, perhaps it's my own fault but due to the pair's involvement I've had high expectations for the output from Ghost House Pictures. Man, have I been disappointed. I respect Raimi and Tapert giving up-and-comers the chance to get their projects off the ground, but surely the duo can see how limp most of the output has been so far?
So does Boogeyman 2 do anything to raise the bar and just how does it compare the original? Well, the two bear very little relation to each other. There is a mention of the original film's story and the heroine of this film has herself a fear of the boogeyman or boogeyphobia as it's called here which, I confess, I thought was a fear of dancing, but really this plays much more as a slasher film as opposed to the original film's ghost story. Set in an asylum that aims to cure individuals of their phobias, this film's iteration of the boogeyman stalks the hallways, killing the patients by using their phobias against them; how original. It often reminded me of a really poor version of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.
Right from the start Boogeyman 2 is killed stone dead by its insistence on sticking rigidly to the same formula that so many modern horror movies follow—i.e. a bunch of teenagers/twenty-somethings hunted down by an unstoppable killer in a story where we can spot the survivors from the very start. It all ends with a Scooby-Doo style unmasking of the killer at the end, and, if we're really unlucky, the hint of a sequel.
Throughout the movie I was able to tick off a whole list of clichéd scenes that all modern filmmakers seem so sure we need in a horror film but actually don't.
• Unwarranted, though not necessarily unappreciated, nudity? Check.
• Sex scene whilst a killer is on the loose (which the two participants are fully aware off), ensuring their impending doom? Check.
• The really tiresome way nobody believes the main protagonist, despite the fact the rising body count hints they may just be right? Check.
• Underdeveloped secondary characters we are supposed to care about, despite them clearly being nothing more than cannon fodder? Check.
There's a great moment where two secondary characters discuss why their relationship had failed. These characters have had ten lines of dialogue between them at this point and suddenly we're supposed to be rooting for these guys to get back together? I don't think so. Why did writer Brian Sieve and director Jeff Betancourt think this needed to be in the movie? What point does it serve to drive the plot forward or to pull the viewer further in? It's this poor attempt at character development that means we have no investment at all in the movie. We're simply waiting for them to be killed.
In fact by filling the film with characters that really amount to nothing more than victims another huge hole is revealed that ultimately proves fatal. The big slasher movies of the seventies and eighties, Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Friday the 13th had great, iconic killers that gave the viewer someone to root for (come on admit it). Here we are left with some dude in a mask who has no screen presence whatsoever. The slasher sub-genre, which this series has now clearly moved into, requires a villain who can hold our interest from one movie to the next. Recently only Jigsaw from the Saw franchise, with his twisted morals, has managed this and shown himself to be worthy of eating at horror's top table. The villain of the piece here, if we're going to keep up the idea of some kind of horror banquet, is likely to be found at the children's table getting wedgies from the killer out of Scream 3.
A pair of commentaries are a welcome addition to the extras and at least give some insight into the thought put into the movie. Sadly, at no point do I recall anyone apologizing for what they had done.
Like the original film the transfer is impressive. Black levels are excellent, which for a horror film is obviously important, as they are so prevalent. The image is reasonably clean of dirt or grain and overall makes the video the most impressive part of the whole disc.
The soundtrack is also technically sound, though sadly for a horror film there was a disappointing lack of use of the back speakers in the 5.1 mix.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Writer Brian Sieve and director Jeff Betancourt show they understand the basic three-act structure and can tell a cohesive story. The film is competently shot and at 93 minutes at least doesn't hang around for too long. Other than that, the two show no originality or flair at all for storytelling or scares.
Whoever cast Tobin Bell, however, deserves an award. By casting Jigsaw in the movie we are at least left to guess whether he is the boogeyman stalking the halls or not. Bell gives a fine performance as Dr. Mitchell Allen, who may or may not be the killer. Though far from the world's best actor, Bell has the kind of screen presence that is vital in a horror movie; sadly, he is wasted here.
For those who think a horror movie need only be a series of inventive or gory kills you'll find something to like here. In a complete turnaround from the original movie, Boogeyman 2 in its unrated form has several gore-drenched kills that show more thought than the rest of the movie put together. Depending on your view of what a horror film should be, that is either a good thing or a bad thing.
The film is also far better than the original, which really isn't saying much.
I hate to putdown the work of others that has clearly taken so much time, effort and money. On the other hand I hate to see a genre I love being filled up with worthless entries like this.
It's time for Messrs Raimi and Tapert to return to their horror roots in a hands-on role and show these youngsters how it's done. We are stuck in a time where the majority of horror is either so diluted that is couldn't scare an infant or ends up just being a succession of grisly murders. The art of scaring people seems to be lost on the new generation of filmmakers, and that's really quite sad.
I'm handing out three life sentences to Boogeyman 2: one for the first film, one for this film, and one in an attempt to stop any potential sequel.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary with Director Jeff Betancourt and Screenwriter Brian Sieve
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