Thursday, January 2, 2014


Directed by James Conway
95 mins.  Dark and ghoulish color.
Republic Pictures VHS

The Boogens is the type of movie where they use the term "sex maniac" twice.  It's the type of movie that is a monster movie, but you don't see much of the monster.  It's the type of movie that takes place in a mine in the dark and they don't light it well enough to see what's happening.  It's also the type of movie that I am very pleased to recommend.

The set-up is nothing really all that special.  A long-abandoned mine is being reopened by speculators and two friends, Mark and Roger, are there to work.  Roger's girlfriend Jessica and her friend Trish come up from Denver to visit.  There are Boogens.  The Boogens are dangerous.

What is special about this movie is the execution.  The actors do such a fine job and are so likeable I felt myself getting attached to all of them.  I can't remember the last time that I watched a monster movie and didn't want to see the monster ravage all the characters.  I was attached to Jessica in her cowboy hat and pool-shark skills.  I was attached to Mark, because he's a sweet guy and he reminded me slightly of that guy in The Last Starfighter.  I was attached to Roger because he's a sex maniac (and brilliantly frustrated throughout the movie).  I was attached to Trish because she's bright and capable and charming and can smash Boogen-heads with boulders.

And, mostly, I was attached to the dog, Tiger.  Tiger is maybe the best actor in dog history.  He awkwardly looks back and forth, has perfect comedic timing and could really use a bath by the end.

The first hour of the film feels as though you're watching any old '80s comedy.  Young, likeable people up to young people hijinx.  It's all capable enough that the film could've succeeded just fine as a Say Anything or Fast Times at Ridgemont High.  The characters are wholesome in that early '80s kind of way.

Then, it turns dark.

Once the monsters come out, it proves to also be capable as a monster stalker movie, complete with Boogens POV and great Boogens make-up and effects.  Because this is pre- John Carpenter's The Thing, I think it deserves some recognition for the creative monster design.  I won't describe it here, but on the small budget, they are pretty successful at not showing the Boogens until absolutely necessary, and then obscuring them in the darkness.

And, so, it works on both levels.  But, maybe that's it's problem.  The Boogens never really found an audience with the slasher crowd or the monster crowd or the teen comedy crowd.  The crossing of genres always seems to leave crowds behind.  It's a film that is not built from the beginning to make you guess who dies first or who lives.  It's not the type of film that makes you look for the next creative kill.  I downright felt bad when I realized certain characters were about to meet their end.


The Marketing:
It's bad.  Really bad.  The cover has some skeleton hands reaching out and some weird ghost eyes hovering above an old cabin.  Released the same year as My Bloody Valentine, this film failed to make even close to the amount of money Bloody did.  And yet, it's a far better film.  I think the first culprit is that title, The Boogens?  What's a Boogen?  I was watching this with Tom, and he pointed out that a much better title would've been Black Friday (how the townies refer to the original mine collapse.)  I agree completely.  Also, the tagline he came up for it was, "Boogens will be Boogens."  Brilliant.  Why isn't Tom in marketing?  Also, the poster art and box cover should have something with creepy tentacles, cute co-eds, and a mine shaft.  Not some weird skeleton hands and some disembodied eyes.

Before you open the mine shaft:

  • Coors.  Mark taps the rockies and if you are inclined toward drink, so should you.
  • A hot shower.  This film takes place in the snowy mountains, and it's cold to watch.  The crunching of snow and icy atmosphere is affecting.
Apparently this was recently released on Blu-ray, so check that out, if you want.  Maybe the remastering is great, which would help this film, as the darkly lit parts on the VHS are very hard to make out.  But, either way, its an enjoyable experience.

-J. Moret

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