Film — Boogeyman (PG-13)

Boogeyman (PG-13)

by Amy Diaz

7th Heaven’s  Barry Watson really hates closets, not to mention the dark space under the bed, in Boogeyman, a horror movie that — oh, damn, I knew I forgot something — neglected to ever introduce us to an actual monster.

Dracula? He needs blood to live so he’ll suck it out of the closest neck. Sure, you can elaborate, add some fancy metaphors, tweak a few superpowers, but essentially, that’s the motivation and the reason to fear the monster. Zombies? They eat brains. Werewolves? They change during a full moon, have no problem snacking on their friends and can make more of their kind with a bite. Simple but full of artistic possibilities.

What does the boogeyman do? Beats me. The movie never really gets to that point. Opening scenes show a young boy tormented by the Thing that Lives in His Closet. We could easily chock the Thing up to childhood imagination and a creepy placement for your coat but then, when the boy’s dad comes in to reassure him that there’s absolutely nothing to worry about, the dad is sucked into the closet. How? Why? What happens to him? Whatever, the movie says, we’ve got a WB star to scare the bejesus out of.

Fast forward to his pin-up years, Tim (Watson) is still afraid of closets and other dark spaces (to include his kitchen cabinets and shadowy corners) but has been semi-convinced by years of therapy that his whole the-boogeyman-stole-my-dad story might just be psychological cover for a father who walked out on his family. His mother dies and he returns to his childhood house in search of Answers to his Nagging Fears, or something equally lame and unnecessary. There, he finds himself jerked around by close-ups of door knobs and swirly camera movements that suggest, without ever explaining why, that Something still lurks in the shadows.

Of course, 90 minutes of nothing but a jittery Watson would get pretty boring so we get three girls to help him out with the exposition. One is the creepy, wooden Franny (Skye McCole Bartusiak), a big-eyed child who menaces Watson until she can provide him with enough pieces of plot to allow her to vanish. The other two are grown-up girls with whom Watson is clearly meant to have some sort of chemistry. Jessica (Tory Mussett) is his annoying but blonde girlfriend. Kate (Emily Deschanel) is his nice but, sadly, brunette childhood friend. Just as the movie forgets all about giving us motivation and explanation of the boogeyman, it neglects to actually develop either of these girls into an actual love interest. Like props ordered but not used, both characters just kind of stand around, occasionally tossing off a line of dialogue to remind us that they’re still there, waiting for something to do already.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand and even applaud the horror movie technique of showing as little as possible. The big evil of this movie is at its least ridiculous when we see nothing but a dark image buried in a shadow. But at some point you have to at least explain what your monster is, what it wants, where it comes from — something, anything. It seems a little self-centered to believe that this monster exists for the sole purpose of giving you a fright.

Like a witch who — yikes, embarrassing — forgot to put a dress on under her cape, Boogeyman feels nakedly unprepared for its horror duties.

- Amy Diaz

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