The Boogey Man (1980)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #325

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Also known as The Bogey Man
Number of Views: Three
Release Date: November 7, 1980
Sub-Genre: Supernatural
Country of Origin: United States
Budget: $300,000
Box Office: $35,000,000
Running Time: 85 minutes
Director: Ulli Lommel
Producers: Ulli Lommel, Gillian Gordon
Screenplay: Ulli Lommel
Special Effects: Craig Harris
Cinematography: Jochen Breitenstein
Score: Tim Krog
Editing: Terrell Tannen
Studio: The Jerry Gross Organization
Distributor: The Jerry Gross Organization, Image Entertainment
Stars: Suzanna Love, Ron James, John Carradine, Nicholas Love, Raymond Boyden, Felicite Morgan, Bill Rayburn, Llewelyn Thomas, Jay Wright, Natasha Schiano, Gillian Gordon, Howard Grant, Jane Pratt, Lucinda Ziesing, David Swim

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Suggested Audio Candy

Tim Krog “The Boogey Man”

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Over the past decade or so, Ulli Lommel has become known as one of the most inept film-makers of our generation, a modern-day Ed Wood if you like. In 2005, I had the distinct displeasure of watching his woefully abysmal Zombie Nation, which was utterly bereft of quality, and would have been inclined to agree with popular consensus at that point. However, his directorial career has spread across five decades, and afforded him the opportunity to rub noses with such greats as Donald Pleasence, Tony Curtis, Andy Warhol, and even Russ Meyer, so there have been peaks among the trenches. Admittedly, his later works have largely been vilified, and quite rightly so, but every dog has its day, even one quite possibly afflicted with rabies.

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Shortly after The Boogey Man was released at the turn of the eighties, it became embroiled in the video nasty debate and, in 1984, was placed on the DPP’s 33-strong second list of films deemed inappropriate for public consumption. It was then whisked away from video store shelves; faster than you could say pariah. While never actually successfully prosecuted, it made a name for itself in that time, so much so that its appalling sequel from 1983, Revenge of The Boogey Man, which was little more than a shameless retread, comprising over fifty percent regurgitated footage, was also banished. Over thirty years later, it is now rather affectionately remembered and Keeper, for one, is culpable of possessing something of a soft spot for what is essentially Lommel’s finest hour.

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Innovation clearly wasn’t of any great concern to Lommel and, within the first ten minutes, it states its intent. John Carpenter’s influence is evident, from the title itself, to the opening static shot of a house which bears more than a passing resemblance to the old Myers homestead, and its set-up which features a small child stabbing his mother’s lover to death in a scene pulled directly from Halloween, it’s clear that Carpenter was a huge source of motivation to Lommel although that is where any similarities end. Similarly, The Exorcist also receives a clear nod of reverence and he also borrows shamelessly from William Friedkin’s masterpiece as the film wears on.

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Having said that, the film which closest resembles The Boogey Man in terms of overall theme and foreboding Southern Gothic atmosphere is James W. Robertson’s vastly underrated Superstition from two years later and the parallels are there for all to see. Like Robertson’s film there are numerous slasher leanings but, what is most notable is the supernatural element and similarly mean-spirited approach. An underlying sense of dread serves it best, along with a glorious synthesized score courtesy of Tim Krog, the likes of which just don’t get made anymore. Despite such spikes in quality, it’s best revisited with rose-tinted spectacles firmly in place, particularly when it comes to dialogue and performances. One distinct plus would be the appearance of John Carradine, although he had the astute sense to get in and get out in the same day of shooting.

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Still traumatized by the events of twenty years prior, whereby Willy’s sibling Lacey slaughters their mother’s abusive lover whilst bathing in her own reflection, the pair continue to pay psychological penance for their actions. Lacey suffers from particularly lurid and vicious dreams whereas her brother has been mute since that very night. Hilariously, his nearest and dearest appear to have forgotten his vow of silence as they spend the entire duration making one-way conversation with Willy. After unwittingly releasing our malevolent spirit by shattering a mirror, their ten years of bad luck commences. This has particularly foul repercussions for their loved ones and any fringe players as the pent-up evil spreads faster than an outbreak of head lice at a Justin Bieber concert.

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The main reason for watching The Boogey Man was always its kills and I shall get to them in turn during my post-appraisal wind down. However, it has more going for it than it may have appeared initially. Visually it ranges wildly from shambolic to reasonably masterful and Lommel’s directorial style is as uneven as the film itself. Having said this, its numerous laughably inept moments are largely forgivable given the era, while certain lasting imagery still possesses an exclusive nostalgic charm even now. Lommel saturates his lens in vivid primary colors and an airborne mirror shard lodges itself into our hippocampus both effortlessly and effectively. Likewise, the glimmer of a steel blade as it prepares to perforate still sticks in my mind all these years later. Married with Krog’s goosebump-encouraging score, it makes for a mildly unsettling experience.

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Scoring a film such as Lommel’s The Boogey Man is somewhat troublesome. On one hand it is likely that, have you not shared in its guilty pleasures previously, you will find it painful to sit through. However, for those already initiated, it has matured surprisingly well with age. Sure the performances range from good to shockingly bad and it’s a muddled mess of gargantuan proportions but it knows what it is that its core audience craves and delivers with kindness. With gory kills, often tinged with black humor, a soundtrack to kill for, brisk pace, and optical confectionery at every turn, it can never be accused of being miserly. So many films of its epoch, particularly those which landed themselves in hot water with the censors, are long-in-the-tooth now but I’m pleased as punch to report that it’s one list The Boogey Man doesn’t populate.

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Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10

Grue Factor: 4/5

For the Grue-Guzzlers: This is what we truly came for and Lommel’s oddity comes good on the grue, sufficiently enough to warrant its inclusion on the laughable DPP hit list. We are gifted with numerous stabbings, self-inflicted tracheotomy via scissors, pitchfork impalement, a wonderfully camped up twin human kebab, and even a little well-meaning child exploitation for good measure. Nothing nefarious, but plenty hilarious as the peeping Timmy in question introduces himself via bathroom window to the tune of “fleabag” before the frame drops on his neck and he endeavors, not-altogether successfully, to play dead. For the most part, the effects by Craig Harris hold up reasonably well.

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Read Superstition Appraisal

Read Halloween (1978) Appraisal

Read The Exorcist Appraisal

Read Amityville II: The Possession Appraisal

Richard Charles Stevens

Keeper of The Crimson Quill

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