Boogeyman (2005)

Starring: Barry Watson, Emily Deschanel, Skye McCole Bartusiak, Tory Mussett, Lucy Lawless, Andrew Glover

Directed by: Stephen Kay

Rating: 1 2 3 4

'I am the one who growls in your closet
I am the one who lurks under your bed.'

Alice Cooper, Lullaby
Barry Watson as Boogeyman victim Tim

From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties. dear God, bring 'em on. And who better to drag them kicking and screaming out from the closet and under the bed than Boogeyman producer Sam (Evil Dead) Raimi, the man who proved to us once and for all that plasticine is really, really terrifying stuff?

In Boogeyman, all our childhood fears come true when eight-year-old Tim sees his dad dragged into the closet by the resident monster. Fifteen years later, dweeby cardigan wearing Tim is still a bit of a mess. A childhood spent in a psychiatric ward has done little to dispel his fears: he may have been told 'til he's blue in the face that his father left home and the Boogeyman story is a sensitive and imaginative child's rationalisation of a painful desertion, but he's still taken all the doors off his kitchen cupboards and invested in a clothes rail and (nice touch) a see-thru fridge.

Tim and the mysterious moon faced child in Boogeyman

Summoned back home when his mother dies, he decides that he needs to face up to his fears once and for all, by spending a night in the creepy Bates Motel/Amityville House where his father disappeared. Complete with squeaking floorboards, rattling windows and, of course, scary cupboard doors that keep mysteriously creaking ajar, the place is a full on haunted house of horror, guaranteed to give anyone the willies, let alone a seriously disturbed individual like Tim. And that's not to mention the crow that commits hari-kiri on his windscreen, the ghostly moon faced child who seems to know far more about the Boogeyman than she should, and, er, the whispering voices in his head.

Because as well as ticking all the boxes for a classic horror movie, Boogeyman is set squarely in my favourite scary territory, that marvellous shadowy twilight zone between supernature and clinical insanity. Is there really a monster in Tim's closet, or is he simply a disturbed little boy who grew up to be a completely unhinged adult? Does the Boogeyman get him when he peers into the cupboard under the stairs, or is he simply having a panic attack? Has the Boogeyman really taken his girlfriend (a thoroughly nasty piece of work who deserves everything she gets, incidentally) or are the police about to screech to halt outside the house, sirens blazing, and arrest him for her murder?

Aargh! It's behind you! Barry Watson in Boogeyman

No spoilers here, but suffice it to say that we're kept guessing right up to the final climax as the film leads us a merry dance along the fine line that separates terrifying fantasy from psychologically damaged fact. And yes, the climax is a little disappointing, but the masterful ratcheting tension that leads up to it, and the sudden, breathtakingly mind bending sequence that precedes it, are really a very hard act to follow.

Yes, some of the shocks are a bit cheap (the dead mum in particular is a bit obvious), as is the cheesy pop psychology of the ending, and a little more backstory might have been nice, but all in all, Boogeyman is a pretty good horror film. Simple and stylish, with a nice, old fashioned emphasis on clever camerawork and psychological tension rather than buckets of blood and overplayed CGI, this is a film that preys on all those hidden fears we think we've grown out of but probably never will. Put it this way, I'm very glad there isn't a closet in my bedroom.

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