Dir:Stephen Kay. US. 2005. 86mins.
Hollywood'srun of low-cost, high return horror movies looks set to continue with Boogeyman,a young-skewing chiller that's better than its generic sounding title suggests.With a stronger than expected US opening under its belt, this second projectfrom Ghost House Pictures - the joint venture between Mandate Pictures(formerly Senator International) and producers Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert thatpreviously scored big with The Grudge - might now manage a better thanaverage (for its genre) international gross. And it will certainly be set upfor a good performance in video markets worldwide.
Sony'sScreen Gems opened the film in the US last weekend (with a helpful PG-13rating) and managed a chart-topping $19.5m gross from 3,052 sites. That was arecord high for the weekend of the Super Bowl, the American footballchampionship game that keeps many would-be moviegoers in front of their TVsets. The eventual domestic gross will be well short of The Grudge's$110m but it should still look impressive beside Boogeyman's reportedbudget of just $7m.
Independentdistributors in the international marketplace that have licensed the film fromMandate won't have much star power to help them, though lead Barry Watson mighthave some pull in territories where his TV series 7th Heaven airs (andthe fact that the film was shot in New Zealand might incite a little extrainterest in that part of the world).
Thebest marketing ploy may be to emphasise the link with The Grudge: in theUS, Boogeyman's trailer first screened with Ghost House's hit Japaneseremake and the new film's advertising bills it above all else as coming'From the producers of The Grudge.'
Thetitle refers to the generic monster-under-the-bed that keeps American kidsawake on particularly spooky nights. The film opens in one such kid's bedroom,but on this night eight-year-old Tim encounters the real thing and sees his dadattacked and dragged away by something lurking in the closet.
Fifteenyears later, the still troubled Tim (Watson) learns about the death of his evenmore troubled mother (a brief appearance by Lawless, the former Xena:Warrior Princess) and returns to his hometown for the funeral. Camping outat the family's now abandoned house, Tim tries to convince first his girlfriend(Musset, from Peter Pan) and then a childhood friend (Deschanel, from ColdMountain) that the Boogeyman is still after him. In the end, however, onlya mysterious little girl (Bartusiak, from Against The Ropes) believeshim and helps him confront his abiding fear.
Overits first half, Boogeyman does better than most films of its ilk inestablishing and keeping a grip on its audience. The script, from first-timefeature writers Eric Kripke, Juliet Snowden and Stiles White, suggests someinteresting dramatic possibilities and director Stephen Kay (who previously didthe US remake of Get Carter) sets a nicely chilly tone.
Thebuild up is unusually quiet and sustained, with only a few real scares but aconstant drip feed of suspense, as Tim anxiously approaches every closed dooror darkened closet. There's a clear Japanese influence in the almost elegiactone and in the jump cuts and flash shots that Kay uses to produce regular andpretty scary jolts.
Watson(last seen on the big screen in Sorority Boys) gives Tim just about theright mix of appeal and twitchiness and sustains his performance over a lot ofscreen time, with other characters only coming into the action intermittently.
Inits second half, the film takes some momentarily interesting turns buteventually appears to be grasping for a twist that will set up the face-to-faceconfrontation between Tim and the Boogeyman. The result is a confusing final 30minutes that offers a decent serving of shocks - and a few CG-enhanced glimpsesof the Boogeyman himself - but not much dramatic satisfaction.
Inthe end, the Boogeyman just seems to give up, prompting Tim to announceanti-climactically, 'He's gone.' A post-credits coda shows that heisn't really, suggesting that Ghost House is leaving the closet door open forsequel.
Prod cos: Ghost House Pictures
US dist: Screen Gems
Int'l sales: Mandate Pictures
Exec prods: Joe Drake, Nathan Kahane, Carsten Lorenz, Steve Hein, GaryBryman
Prods: Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert
Scr: Eric Kripke, Juliet Snowden & Stiles White
Cine: Bobby Bukowski
Prod des: Robert Gillies
Ed: John Axelrad
Costume des: Jane Holland
Music: Joseph LoDuca
Main cast: Barry Watson, Emily Deschanel, Skye McCole Bartusiak, ToryMusset, Lucy Lawless