Five Favorite Things:: The Boogey Man (1980) By Unk

It’s legit creepy. I suppose there’s plenty to pick apart when it comes to THE BOOGEY MAN, director Ulli Lommel’s somewhat brazen, knee-jerk reaction to John Carpenter’s mega-successful HALLOWEEN but I don’t think anyone can pretend it doesn’t maintain a consistently creepy vibe. Its opening scene is tailor-made to echo its inspiration’s haunting prelude while doubling down (and then some) on all things sleazy and distasteful. Yep, it’s pure kindertrauma as young brother and sister Lacey and Willy are subjected to their mother’s kinky drunken liaison with a horrifying dude in a stocking mask and it all ends up tied (literally) to nightmarish abuse and ultimately murder. The ugly incidents are presented in fluorescent hues and witnessed by fluffy toy animals and a queasy tone is set that is never quite shaken off for the rest of the film’s runtime.

A familial bond. Real-life siblings Suzanna and Nicholas Love portray Lacey and Willy as damaged adults years later and although their performances are not exactly award-worthy, the two are naturally likable and charismatic and their emotional link feels effortlessly authentic. These are characters you can’t help feeling sympathy for even at moments in which Willy himself seems poised to be the film’s monster. Suzanna and director Lommel were married at the time of filming and it’s clear she was somewhat of a muse for him and his affection comes across on screen. It’s pretty cool she had a hand in writing the screenplay too.

Covertly innovative. THE BOOGEY MAN is often rightfully called out for its crystal clear debt to HALLOWEEN, THE AMITYVILLE HORROR and THE EXCORCIST but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have several of its own creative cards up its sleeve. Several of its murders have an “inescapable curse” quality that could be said to pave the way for the FINAL DESTINATION series and its invisible stalker with a shredding fetish foreshadows child-murdering dream demon Freddy Krueger. The concept of a mirror capturing a murderous spirit and then each piece of said mirror becoming a conduit for evil once it’s shattered sounds pretty original to me. The movie’s ending is a perfect set-up for a series that could have gone in many a creative direction- unfortunately, the sequels dropped the ball as hard as they could (to put it lightly).

That eighties-era synth score. Sure, Tim Krog’s repetitive blippy score is obviously influenced heavily by Carpenter’s legendary HALLOWEEN theme but let’s face it, audiences were heavily craving exactly such a facsimile at the time. And really, it wisely guesstimates the electronic direction Carpenter was bound to lean towards years later with HALLOWEEN II. In any case, it perfectly captures an early synth- eighties vibe and puts the viewer in the proper apprehensive mood immediately.

That poster! I’ve been bewitched by THE BOOGEY MAN poster since I first stumbled across it in my youth. It does an outstanding job of delivering on pure atmosphere. It’s almost as if the viewer is the boogey man himself gazing upon an unsuspecting victim cautiously looking out a window on a dark windy night. I feel like I can almost see the shadows and curtains quietly twist and shift. Plus it pulsates with a kind of electricity thanks to its brilliant juxtaposition of purple and yellow hues. How do I not own this poster and why is it not hanging on my wall? This lovely piece of advertising art succinctly relays the idea that what will be delivered is some kind of spiritual sequel to HALLOWEEN and although audiences would grow exhausted by such a proposition a few years down the road, in 1980 it was an offer no horror fan could refuse. “The most terrifying nightmare of childhood is about to return” — sign me up.

Eventually Director Ulli Lommel would be responsible for some of the most hilariously half-hearted genre endeavors ever to take up space in in a video store but I’ll always have a soft spot for his interesting early work. I can’t help it, I still believe in THE BOOGEY MAN.

Traumafesssions:: Unk on The Omen (1976)

Yep, I’ve been moderating this site about media that scared us all as children for (over) thirteen years and I’ve still got a few of my own trauma tales to tell. I was somewhere less than ten years old when I first encountered Richard Donner’s 1976 demonic kid flick THE OMEN and a recent re-watch really got the memories of fear a’ flowing again.

My family was living in California at the time and my best pal was a tomboy named Karen who lived at the opposite corner of my block. Interestingly, we started out as enemies with both our families engaging in a rock throwing rumble but soon we were joined at the hip and spending entire days together discussing important matters like Welcome Back Kotter.

For unknown reasons on this particular day my mother came to pick me up from Karen’s house and walk me home. She needed to talk to Karen’s mother about grown-up business in the kitchen so we were meant to hang out in the den and watch TV while they gabbed. Karen’s family had just gotten something very new called “cable,” which meant that we could watch any movie that happened to be on (this was way before on-demand was possible). As it turned out HBO (or whatever station it was) happened to be showing THE OMEN.

We had missed the beginning of the film and jumped in mid way as a frazzled priest was informing Gregory Peck that his son was actually the spawn of Satan and the best idea would be to kill him as soon as possible. Peck didn’t buy what the priest was selling and walked away in a huff leaving the priest alone. Suddenly the weather began to change for the worse. Insane, howling winds popped out of nowhere, thunder bellowed.

It becomes pretty clear the priest knows what’s up. He has said too much. Evil forces appear to have his number! He sees a church in the distance- surely he’ll be safe there! What evil force would dare come at him there? So now it’s a race against time; will he get there before he’s struck down? The church doors are closed! He can’t get in! He looks up to the sky as if to ask God himself for help. Instead, a lightening bolt blasts a large pole from the top of the church roof that falls like a thrown sword and spears the priest right through his body in the middle of the graveyard! Wha!?!!

Where the hell was God during all of this? Was he doing his nails? It was time to go. I wasn’t to witness another scene but I’d seen enough. I was terrified by what I had viewed (and from what I’d heard; Jerry Goldsmith’s score is incredibly persuasive) but I was also profoundly betrayed by the inaction of God during a time of obvious crisis. If God didn’t protect people when they needed him then exactly what was he good for? Looking back, so many of my media based traumas from childhood, involved religion, which probably has more to do with when I was raised (the seventies) then how. But I think there was a scarier, larger truth hitting home that went beyond dubious Bible stories. On some level I understood that the forces I relied on to protect me were unreliable and that simply being a “good” person like a priest wouldn’t shield me from life’s calamities.

Watching THE OMEN once again, this unholy set piece still feels so dark and jarring to me. The ambiguous danger is inescapable and you get a dreadful sense of the enormity of mortality and the minuscule, ant-like nature of human life (an unnerving fatalistic vibe much like the FINAL DESTINATION films would later accomplish). Death is everywhere and there’s no way to switch the channel.