"They never believed me."

This is our children's cry, everywhere, always. When Tim was eight, he saw his father "taken." Something came out of the closet in his bedroom and, with fearsome speed and inhuman strength, tore his father out of sight.

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He would never be believed, because he was too afraid to find words to clothe such naked terror. He grew up with the knowledge that whatever took his father would take him. He didn't ask for reasons. He didn't even question the paranormality of what others would consider fanciful. He knew what he saw. He was a child and children, like animals, sense the force from the other side.

Boogeyman has an unfortunate title, suggesting yet another ghost horror effects-greedy shockfest, such as Candyman. Before the plotlines become entangled and too many weird things happen without explanation, the film is gripping and, as we laugh through Jeepers Creepers and think The Blair Witch Project a student caper, genuinely scary.

Twentysomething Tim (Barry Watson) goes back to the house where his father disappeared to see his mother, who is ill. In fact, she dies before he gets there, but not before he has an instamatic daymare, in which she appears like an avenging demon. Although accompanied some of the time by his posh, dull, white bread girlfriend (Tory Mussett), a germ of doubt grows in the mind of the audience. Is this sensible, nice young man for real? Is he insane?

Although the legendary horrormeister, Mr Evil Dead himself, Sam Raimi, has his name on the poster, he is part of the production team, not the director. That is Stephen T (for Terror) Kay, whose ability to put the frighteners on feels nothing less than miraculous.

There are cliches - the spooky house in the country, the childhood sweetheart now grown into an attractive woman (Emily Deschanel) who doesn't wimp out at the first suggestion of dark powers, the ghost girl (Skye McCole Bartusiak) on the swing, the motel bathroom, the blood - but they are redrawn and given fresh impetus.

The performances do what is required, which is make you care. The exception is Mussett, but her character is supposed to be city pretty, the type that finds rural life littered with unlaundered linen.

The film lacks closure, not because the sunlight flooding through the open window at the end is not warm and wholesome, but because there are bodies still to be buried and questions still to be answered and too many threads left hanging.

Should we lock the closet door at night and throw Monsters Inc in the bin?

Reviewed on: 03 Mar 2005
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Boogeyman packshot
A young man is haunted by the fear of being "taken" by paranormal forces.
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Director: Stephen T Kay

Writer: Eric Kriple, Juliet Snowden, Stiles White

Starring: Barry Watson, Emily Deschanel, Skye McCole Bartusiak, Tory Mussett, Robyn Malcolm, Lucy Lawless, Charles Mesure, Philip Gordon, Andrew Glover

Year: 2005

Runtime: 86 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US/New Zealand/Germany


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