Subtext under the stairs

Horror has a new yawn in “Boogeyman”

Keri Carlson

An onion can make you cry, but that doesn’t mean it’s sad. Likewise, “Boogeyman” can make you jump, but that doesn’t mean it’s scary.

The movie “Boogeyman” follows Tim (Barry Watson), who, as a child, saw his father captured by the boogeyman. Tim is made to believe he imagined the monster to cope with his father walking out on the family. But try as he might, Tim still fears closets and has a hard time sleeping.

Now in his early 20s, it turns out Tim was right all along, and the boogeyman is back to torment him as well as anyone else he cares about.

To make up for a plot more comical than frightening, director Stephen T. Kay uses sound as his main scare tactic.

Hardly any music plays in the background of the film. Instead, creaks and moans fill the soundtrack. This emphasizes the spookiness of the old house Jensen returns to (the original site of the boogeyman), but the groans are so dramatized, they sound like the noises made by the ship in “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.”

The sound effects leave gaps of silence during the nerve-wracking scenes. When the thrilling moments arrive, Kay adds sudden and intense noise. Big booms and shrilling shrieks certainly make the audience’s hearts skip, but it has more to do with the dramatic volume change than actual surprise or fright.

If a friend holds a balloon in one hand and a needle in the other, even though you anticipate the pop, the sound can still make you jump.

The movie’s scare lasts only a second, not throughout its entirety, as in successful horror films. This is mainly because Kay gives no explanation for the boogeyman.

Compare “Boogeyman” to another recent horror film such as “The Grudge.” In that film, spirits haunt a home because they died in a terrible rage. This reasoning makes the audience understand why they should be afraid – perhaps a horrible murder happened in your home.

In “Boogeyman,” there is no reason given as to why the boogeyman haunts Tim or why the closet creature returns many years later. Because the boogeyman seems to be concerned with mainly Tim and his posse, why should anyone else be afraid?

Watson further alienates the audience in his portrayal of Tim. He has one scared expression he repeats every time there’s a closet.

It doesn’t help that Kay shoots a close-up of Watson’s face for 80 percent of the film. This technique might have worked had the movie been a psychological thriller in which the boogeyman was all in Tim’s mind, but that is not the case.

Kay tries to save his film by adding arty camera work. He uses quick cuts, odd angles and strobe lights to make the scenes with the boogeyman seem more conceptual than the plot permits.

By the end, when Tim ultimately confronts the boogeyman, the viewer hopes both will get stuck in the closet.

“Boogeyman” gets in a few good punches at the beginning, but the chills it creates are artificial, fleeting and pointless.