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Boogeyman (2005)

You thought it was a just a story... but its real.

Directed by:

Stephen T. Kay

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 86 minutes

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 15

Country: United States

Remember cowering under the blankets as a child, terrified that there was something else in your bedroom coming to get you from the darkness? In our infancy, the shadowy spaces in the closet or beneath the bed become arenas of the irrational onto which all our primal fears can be projected – and when we get older, seeing the very same fears projected onto an empty screen in the blackness of a cinema allows us to confront our innermost anxieties at a distance (as adults do), while reminding us that deep down we are all still quivering children left alone in the dark to our own nightmares.

Horror cinema has always exploited fear of the dark and the unknown, but three recent films have all opened with a child surviving a traumatising encounter with the irrational in their own bedroom, and then gone on to show that same child decades later returning to face their still unresolved fears. The woefully underrated They (2002) set the benchmark high, only for standards to be almost immediately lowered by Darkness Falls (2003) with its one-dimensional plotting, fright-free pacing and risible creature (the Tooth Fairy, no less). Fortunately Stephen Kay’s ‘Boogeyman’ raises the bar again, winningly combining the creaking ambiguities and psychological chills of They with terrain more familiar from a haunted house movie.

At the age of eight, Tim (Barry Watson) witnessed his father being dragged violently into the bedroom closet, never to reappear. Fifteen years later, although a successful magazine editor and engaged to his colleague Jessica (Tory Mussett), Tim is still crippled by his fear of dark cupboards. A set of ghostly premonitions and the death of his mother (played by Lucy ‘Xena’ Lawless) summon Tim back to the old family house for the weekend, where he renews contact with his Uncle Mike (Phillip Gordon), rekindles his childhood friendship with Kate (Emily Deschanel), meets haunted young girl Franny (Skye McCole Bartusiak), and is revisited by an old acquaintance he would prefer stayed in the closet…

If this plot sounds humdrum and predictable, that is only because I have carefully omitted the many completely unpredictable elements which give ‘Boogeyman’ its stranglehold on the attention. Like ‘They’, it keeps viewers guessing whether the murderous monster resides in the closet, or just in the mind, of its protagonist. Like ‘The Evil Dead’ and ‘Evil Dead II’ (directed by the producer of ‘Boogeyman’, Sam Raimi), it transforms a creepy old country house into a place where seemingly anything can happen after sundown. Like Ju-On: The Grudge (whose recent American remake The Grudge was also produced by Raimi), it finds ingenious ways of defying the conventional logic of chronology and topology – and features ghostly children with a blue-tinged hue.

Most importantly of all, though, ‘Boogeyman’ never, ever forgets to be scary – so that even the double-bluff of its ending will leave viewers on the edge of their seats, waiting for their own personal boogeyman to jump out of the darkness.

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It's Got: A low-flying crow; a dirty bath; a loud-creaking, atmospheric house with many closed doors; a few secrets in the closet; a dizzying confusion of past and present, living and dead; and lots of things going bump in the night.

It Needs: A bleaker ending (this IS, after all, a horror film).

Alternatives:

Darkness Falls, Evil Dead II, House, Ju-On: The Grudge, They

Summary

A man's closeted past comes back to haunt him in this inventive haunted house chiller.

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