One of the very first horror movies that I ever caught on VHS was 1980’s THE BOOGEY MAN directed by ULLI LOMMEL. It’s box art and title had me assuming I would be viewing something along the same lines as HALLOWEEN. Boy, was I in for a surprise. Sure the opening scenes visually crib from JOHN CARPENTER’s classic and the title is an obvious cash-in, but that’s where the similarities end. If you’re looking for subtle nuance or even a vague feigning of good taste just let THE BOOGEY MAN, as Dionne Warwick sang, “Walk on by.” This movie though, as rough around the edges, derivative and generic as it sometimes is, just can’t help being strangely disturbing in it’s own way. The opening kill alone should be in the kindertrauma hall of fame.
Let’s face it, HALLOWEEN’s Judith Myers had a pretty good life up until her brother snuffed it out. Not so with THE BOOGEY MAN’s young brother and sister team Lacey and Willy (NATASHA SCHIANO and JAY WRIGHT) who, when we open the picture, live in the kind of f-ed up environment that wouldn’t befall Judith Myers until ROB ZOMBIE got a hold of her years later. When we first meet these wide-eyed siblings they are spying on their drunken wreck of a mother as she seduces a butch bruiser in the family living room. We never see the guy’s face clearly because soon mom’s kinky pantyhose fetish comes to light and he is wearing said hose on his face.
I’m not sure why but this pantyhose disguise routine was popular on crime shows back in the day and I don’t mind telling you that it always creeped the hell out of me. I mean, props to mom for getting her groove on but this ain’t the type you want hanging around your kids! That obvious fact is made even clearer when the kids are caught spying and, under the approving eye of drunk mommy, the little boy is tied up and gagged to a bed and then slapped for good measure. Luckily sis in her candy cane stripped pajamas knows exactly where the family keeps the butcher knife so she cuts loose her bro. Once free lil’ Willy, as boys will often do, decides it’s high time to stab pantyhose face in the spine as he bumps ugglies with trashy ma in that oddest of make-out joints the bedroom.
What else do you need to know about this movie? 20 years later the kids are grown (and f-d) up and played by real life brother sister team SUZANNA and NICHOLAS LOVE (Suzanne was LUMMEL’s BARBEAU at the time.) They are desperately trying to get over their serious DR. PHIL baggage but Willy is so damn shell shocked he’s gone mute. Sis Lacey makes the brilliant decision to revisit her past in order to heal (don’t try this at home folks!) but ends up freeing the dead dude from a mirror he’s been hanging out in so that he can brutally demolish everybody she comes into contact with.
THE BOOGEY MAN is a cheap, synth scored, runaway train but there are so many ideas (both original AND stolen) bouncing around that you kind of just have to sit back in awe. There are plenty of amazing deaths (the kissing double murder by a knife through two open mouths is inspired) but if gore ain’t your bag you’ll be happy to know that people are routinely speaking in demonic voices, shooting light beams out of their eyeballs and hovering above the ground too. I’m telling you, this supernatural slash-a-thon knows no bounds! In fact, the creepy windows from THE AMITYVILLE HORROR even stop by for a spell (pretty amazing when you consider those windows totally snubbed THE AMITYVILLE CURSE!) THE BOOGEY MAN is strewn with some choppy editing and technical problems galore but its willingness to be as deranged as it wants to be (scary pantyhose face included) leaves a lasting impression.
P.S. O.K I admit it, I did rewind over and over again the part where the brat gets a window (the non-AMITYVILLE type) smashed down on his head. Does that make me a bad person? Aw, who asked ya!