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.

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2 years ago

Yep, yep, kindertrauma is accurate. I watched The Boogeyman for the first time when I was very young, probably around 6 or 7. This was in the early 80s, and the movie played on cable television often (late at night). I remember watching the opening scene, not quite understanding what I was watching, but feeling absolutely terrified. I did not forget it.

I re-watched the movie about two years ago, and realized I had no memory of seeing the rest of the film (so it was new to me this time). I only remembered that scene. I don’t know if I stopped watching the movie after that scene, or if I felt so horrified I just didn’t remember the rest of it. Watching that scene as an adult, I can see that it’s not that terrible, but a six-year old has a different perspective on these things.

Lommel started his career as an associate of Rainder Fassbender. His work certainly took an unexpected turn to low-budget schlock movies (not The Boogeyman, necessarily, but by the end he was churning out a series of trashy films about real-life serial killers like the Zodiac, Green River Killer, Son of Sam, etc.).

2 years ago

I absolutely adore this movie, especially the bonkers final battle. In fact, I like it so much that I’ve taken a chance on several of Lommel’s later films, sadly…