There’s been a long dry spell in the horror genre. For several years now, all of the best horror movies have been about zombies. Most others have been about ghosts and relied too heavily on the color blue and scenes where characters see something creepy happening in the corner. These movies have ranged from poor to terrible. “Boogeyman” is not terrible. It’s no landmark horror film, but it is quite competent. Given the run of bad horror, competent is noteworthy.
“Boogeyman” is the story of Tim, a man haunted by memories of a childhood encounter with the Boogeyman. Tim returns to his hometown when his mother dies, and inevitably he must visit his childhood home and confront the Boogeyman once more. Along the way he meets an attractive female from his past and a child who is haunted by the Boogeyman as well. If this plot sounds familiar, it is because it has appeared in many other horror films over the last several years. In “Boogeyman,” however, it is actually used well.
The movie’s greatest virtue is its simplicity. Whereas many recent horror movies have forced their stories to produce at least one scare every 20 minutes, “Boogeyman” takes its time. Instead of twisting the plot around in every scene, there are only two or possibly three twists. It also eschews dialogue. A very large portion of the movie is filled with single characters walking around by themselves. This low-key storytelling carries through every aspect of the movie. Answers are provided at the end but subtly. Thankfully, there is no scene in which the characters sit around and explain everything to each other and the audience.
This may sound boring, but it isn’t. “Boogeyman” remains engaging, thanks to its exceptional cinematography and the capable performance of Barry Watson. For the film’s extensive single-character-walking-around sequences to work, the character must be interesting and the locale must be well presented. Watson delivers an understated and internal performance as the troubled young Tim, rendering a flat character three-dimensional. The film’s stellar cinematography creates an unrelentingly oppressive atmosphere that becomes creepy in its own right as the film progresses.
The Spartan storytelling style used in “Boogeyman” ultimately works because the film does not feel like reality. It feels instead like a nightmare. While there seems to be no rules, there is a strange sort of dream logic that underlies everything. This is a tricky and infrequently accomplished feat, but “Boogeyman” pulls it off with aplomb.
“Boogeyman” actually operates on two levels, which is one and a half more levels than many modern horror films. On one level, it is the story of Tim’s struggles with the Boogeyman. It also works as a parable about the human experience of dealing with fear. It’s nothing profound, but at least it’s something.