The beginning of Lommel's descent into low-budget exploitati
Robert P. Beveridge | Cleveland, OH | 09/10/2009
(1 out of 5 stars)
"The Boogeyman (Ulli Lommel, 1980)
Ulli Lommel may have been a disciple of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's, but his directorial efforts (save a few at the outset of his career, arguably) have never come close to the brilliance of Fassbinder's best work. While Lommel did attempt for a few years to make Fassbinder-style films, he was always drawn to the world of exploitation (consider Tenderness of the Wolves, his third film, based on the same case as was Lang's immortal M; there's a compare-and-contrast for you), and starting with The Boogeyman, he allowed his baser impulses free rein. If he had done so in any sort of original way, this might have been the cult hit it threatened to become back when it was released.
Lacey (Lommel's wife Suzanna Love) and Willy (Love's real-life brother Nicholas), as children, had the mother of all traumatic experiences. One of their mother's string of boyfriends was an abusive psychopath who liked to tie Willy to the bed to keep him out of the way, beating him once in a while for good measure. One night, Lacey cut his ropes, and Willy grabbed the knife from her, stormed their mother's bedroom, and stabbed the boyfriend dozens of times, killing him. Fast-forward twenty years, and Lacey, now married and living on her aunt and uncle's farm with her brother (who hasn't spoken since the incident), gets a letter from her mother, now retired and living in Georgia, asking to see the two of them again before she dies. That night, Lacey has a horrible nightmare that the boyfriend has come back to kill her. On the advice of a psychologist (John Carradine), husband Jake (standup comedian Ron James in his first film role) takes Lacey back to the childhood house to try and expel the demons. (Mom, by the way, never surfaces again.) In her mother's old bedroom, Lacey finds a mirror that was there back in the day, and she sees the boyfriend's reflection in it. Terrified, she shatters the mirror, releasing his restless spirit to spread death and destruction wherever shards of the mirror happen to be.
It's an interesting concept, and done right, it could have been a fine flick. It is in no way done right, being satisfied with being a silly slasher flick that gives new meaning to the term "derivative"; you'll recognize a lot of this from previous films, many of which were hot off the presses at the time. (While Lommel's obvious antecedent for this film was Halloween, pretty much every slasher film made during the seventies gets at least a quick nod, from Black Christmas to Friday the 13th.) Even the music is ripped straight out of John Carpenter. Lommel is not nearly talented enough a director to turn melange into homage, and even were he so, I don't think that was his intention at all; this has the feel of a movie put together for the sole purpose of making a quick buck. And it probably did, but of the films from the golden age of slashers I've been rewatching these last few years, I can't remember one that's aged quite as badly as this. If you've never seen it, do yourself a favor--ignore its existence and go rent Tenderness of the Wolves again instead. *