- The Washington Times - Monday, February 7, 2005

Hollywood has had its way with Frankenstein’s monster, the Wolf Man, Dracula and the Mummy. There are few, if any, classic creatures left to scare us.

Enter “Boogeyman,” an uninspired film that offers solid reasons why the childhood closet-dweller hasn’t haunted the big screen until now.

The no-budget thriller, given a quickie screening Thursday night to prevent a skewering by critics on its opening day, moves at a pace akin to that of a Merchant-Ivory production.

“Seventh Heaven’s” Barry Watson plays Tim, a successful writer who remains haunted by the ghostly dreams of his youth. His father left him when he was a boy, or so the family’s party line goes. Tim remembers differently. He recalls waking up one night in a feverish haze and seeing his father being dragged away by a creature living in his bedroom closet. It’s the film’s one electric moment, and it’s over after the first 10 minutes.

Tim decides to do something about his childhood phobias when he returns home to attend his mother’s funeral.

That’s all well and good — but does it have to be such a laborious process?

Tim examines every inch of his old Victorian house — sort of a home inspection performed under really creepy lighting.

Director Stephen T. Kay isn’t a hack, per se, but he continually throws out red herrings just to spare us from Mr. Watson’s incessant searching. We jump out of our chairs once or twice and will hate ourselves in the morning for doing so, but it’s only because the film’s volume spikes in every other scene. Never has a film relied on sheer volume to stave off the sandman.

Uh-oh. Better not mention the sandman too loudly. Some Hollywood type with lots of bucks and no imagination might concoct a horror movie about him next.

“Boogeyman’s” audible cues, combined with a succession of quick-edit gimmickry and rushing camera moves painfully remind us that the film could have been wrapped in less than 30 minutes with a proper storyteller in charge.

We’re all for horror movies trying to establish atmosphere, as the recent spate of Japanese thrillers (such as the American remake of “The Grudge”) has proved to greater effect. But Mr. Kay’s film thinks we’ve never seen a haunted house up close before.

The remainder of his well-intentioned movie cribs from every other horror film — from the now cliched use of dead-eyed children to our hero’s obsession with going where he simply shouldn’t go.

By the time Mr. Boogeyman gets his close-up, we’ve been numbed by the film’s jury-rigged jolts.

Mr. Watson does himself no favors here, either, alternating between befuddled and befuddled garnished with a side order of anxiety.

The film’s final moments do keep our attention, as does the revelation of what the Boogeyman is really made of. By then, however, the audience will be ready to sleep off the whole mess.

After looking past the CGI beast of the hour and the film’s biggest fright, you’ll easily see how little creativity it took to bring “Boogeyman” to the screen.

*

WHAT: “Boogeyman”

RATING: PG-13 (Horror-style violence and partial nudity)

CREDITS: Directed by Stephen T. Kay. Written by Eric Kripke, Juliet Snowden and Stiles White

RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes

WEB SITE: www.sonypictures.com/ movies/boogeyman/

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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