Friday, February 04, 2005

Boogeyman, Hide And Seek

1. Boogeyman (Director: Stephen Kay)

Kay has a few features listed under his name, but his most recognizable is the Stallone remake of Get Carter. He's also co-credited with the screenplay of the adaptation of The Mod Squad. So, there's an early glimpse into what you're getting into.

Horror movies have changed a bit since the 80's slasher films. In the 80s, the majority of horror movies were a metaphor for the dangers of sex and drugs, and there was always a Freddy, Jason, or Michael Myers to punish teenagers for getting involved with those things. Now, the majority of horror movies are a metaphor for troubled homes and/or families. I can't exactly pinpoint when this occurred, but I'll start with The Sixth Sense. Haley Joel Osment's character Cole, who is being raised by his single mother, sees dead people. Bruce Willis' character Malcolm tries to help him out, but with a serious strain on his relationship with his wife. Think about the dead people Cole sees, and you'll find that most of them had familial problems.

The reason I started thinking about all this is that there have been many, many, films that fit under this horror subgenre. The Ring certainly fits under this, and a huge crop of films that have come out in the last six months do, like The Forgotten, Darkness, The Grudge, and White Noise. Where the change in all this? Is it the fact that divorce now splits equal time with happy marriages?

In Boogeyman, Tim Jensen (Barry Watson from "7th Heaven") is haunted by, surprise! The Boogeyman! At an early age he experiences what many kids trying to sleep in the dark experience, the feeling that someone or something is lurking around under the bed, in the closet, or manifesting itself through coincidentally placed clothes on a chair. He's also afraid of the stories his father has told him about the Boogeyman. His noises during his own investigation bring his father in to his room, who goes around doing the fatherly duty of looking under and into every conceivable hiding place, only to be viciously sucked in by a disgruntled employee of Monsters, Inc. anyway. Serious psychological problems may, or may not be, in Tim's future (or already is), so as we can play the game of whether he's imagining all of this.

We cut to the grown Timmy, who's about to get married, but is seriously worrying his fiancee with his aversion to closets. Oh yeah, he sees visions of death when they happen. Now, he must frighten everyone he knows, including a childhood friend, by coming to terms with the fact he believes the Boogeyman is real. Tim harkens back to times when he was a kid to prepare for battle, including one memory where his father and mother bicker over the fact that his father told him the story about the Boogeyman in the first place (a scene that is curious because we saw Tim's father get killed--maybe Tim was imagining it, or maybe the time of his father's death wasn't the first time Tim had screamed about the Boogeyman). Then he remembers his father locking him in a closet and telling him to count to 5 when he got scared.

Somewhere in the middle of this, a mysterious young girl comes around asking questions about the Boogeyman. She has a secret, of course. Tim's meeting with this girl leads to one of the dumbest sequences of dialogue ever. When Tim says when he gets scared, he counts to 5, the girl asks, what happens when you get to 6? Huh, funny, I thought he said he only counted to 5.

Stephen Kay does a lot of camera trickery in this, but never during the scary scenes. We see a key go into a lock and push all the little bars in its necessary sequence for opening a door. We look to the sky as Tim deposits a trash bag in the can (on top of us). So, in other words, this is lazy filmmaking. We can get a whole bunch of useless camera placements during the non-action scenes, but none during the scenes we came to see? And once again, we have a movie focused on scares involving a loud noise or a loud sound in the soundtrack, and whispers in the distance. There is a fairly cool finale, ruined though, by its ending.

Also, Barry Watson reminds me so much of Skeet Ulrich in the way he looks and talks--well, that's scary.

2. Hide And Seek (Director: John Polson) Release date: January 28

Polson's most recognizable work is Swimfan.

Alright, perhaps this is my first guilty pleasure of the year. Rotten Tomatoes has collected a 15% favorable rating for this movie in its database of reviews. People at work told me this was terrible. One person told me it was pretty good until the ending.

Robert De Niro plays David Callaway, a psychologist who has lost his wife (Amy Irving) to suicide, leaving him to raise his young daughter Emily (Dakota Fanning) by himself. He moves from the city out to the country, and it isn't long before the stunned Emily begins acting creepy and claiming she has an imaginary friend named Charlie, who apparently doesn't like anyone but is real fun like mommy used to be.

David tries to find a new beginning and meets Elizabeth (Elisabeth Shue), a woman who is babysitting her sister's kid and sort of fancies David. This is where Charlie begins to turn Emily into a little sharp-tongued kid, and then the bad stuff starts happening in the bathroom. First, a message accusing David of letting his wife die, then other atrocities occur. David is sure his young daughter is behind it, but she insists it's Charlie, and she can't seem to explain who or where he is. He tries to get a former student, Katherine (Famke Janssen), to figure things out because perhaps he's not best suited to treat his daughter, but she essentially runs into the same roadblocks.

I admit, this line of filmmaking began to frustrate me at first. I have seen a few movies in the past couple of months, notably Birth, where the lack of information was intentional but not plausible. I had the feeling of wanting to shake these people for being so unreasonable, and at one point, I wanted to strangle little Dakota Fanning, who is excellent in this, an actress well beyond her years (I think it's safe to say the soon-to-be 11-year-old is a genius). When you discover who or what Charlie is, everything fits--snugly.

Someone compared this movie to another recent horror movie, and for the sake of keeping any sort of surprise, I'll not mention which movie this apparently favors. I will say that once the surprise is out, the movie starts to derail a little bit, because there's a long anticlimactic ending, but I overall I thought the viewing was worth it. Sorry, majority of critics...I guess I forfeit my ability to offer my opinions on film...sigh.


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