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'Boogeyman' good for shock value

Barry Watson stars in this horror movie about a weird creature-entity-thingy that lives in closets and murders people. Or sucks them into some parallel universe; it's kind of impossible to tell. One more reason to avoid this piece of trash.
By Mark Sussman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, February 10, 2005
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Horror films constitute a genre in which visceral reaction is key. If you don't feel scared or at least a little freaked out during the course of the film, it probably wasn't that good. Yet feeling scared can't be the only criteria, otherwise "Fahrenheit 9/11" might be labeled one of the best horror films ever made.

"Boogeyman" is a film that forces the viewer to wonder about what makes a good horror film, or what even counts as being "scary." Let me start by saying that this movie is bad. Really, really bad. The story begins as young Tim Jensen watches his father get sucked into a closet by some shadowy thing, never to be seen again. Flash forward fifteen years and Tim (Barry Watson) is working in New York as an associate editor at a hip magazine, dating Jessica (Tory Mussett), who works in the magazine's art department, and seems to have a lot going for him in general, except for his paralyzing fear of closets.

Tim knows that the Boogeyman took his dad, but he has been told that pops actually left the family and the whole monster in the closet thing is the product of a youthful imagination. But when Tim's mother dies, Tim must, you guessed, go back to his childhood house and confront the evil thing that took his father away from him in the first place. The rest of the film is half childhood reminiscence and half monster hunt.

From the first 10 minutes after the opening credits, it's pretty apparent that this is going to be a bad movie. The acting is wooden, the relationships devoid of chemistry, the characters barely likable, and the cinematography nausea-inducing. But I kept jumping in my seat.

I'd like to theorize that every horror film has a certain amount of "shock capital" it can choose to spend by making things happen suddenly, and forcing the viewer's heart rate up. It's a good way to heighten suspense. But when it keeps happening over and over and over, it's hard not to get annoyed, especially when the momentary suspense of the action doesn't intersect with any kind of narrative suspense.

"Boogeyman" spends all of its shock capital pretty early on, leaving it further and further in debt to the viewer, who is waiting for some kind of intellectual pay-off: anything except another sudden, loud noise.

The real shame about "Boogeyman," though, is there is a good movie in there somewhere. It's script shamelessly lifts some moves from Charlie Kaufman's ("Being John Malkovich," "Adaptation,") brand of narrative involution, hinting that Tim's battle with the Boogeyman has something to do with conquering the pain of his bizarre family life.

This could have been a film about monsters as metaphors for the effects of family strife on young children. And it kind of is that film already. Unfortunately we don't see enough of Tim's past to ever really understand what the hell happened to him, so we can't relate. It doesn't help that Watson spends half of the film's duration staring intensely at closets, giving the viewer almost zero opportunity to empathize.

So is "Boogeyman" scary? Well, I jumped a lot. My heart rate climbed at several points, and it conjured up my own memories of being scared of the dark as kid. But after I left the theater I walked through the dark parking lot and didn't feel the need to turn around once. I went home and opened my closet door with ease, pretty confident that the only truly scary thing about "Boogeyman" is its box office returns.

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