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At the request of director Gerard Lough, I have gone ahead and reviewed
his short film The Boogeyman, based on (interestingly enough) my
favourite short story from the mind of Stephen King. The e-mail from
Lough came from out of the blue; he expressed his pleasure over my
review of The Stolen Wings, one of his earlier shorts and then lo and
behold, the opportunity presented itself. Feeling rather exalted, I
accepted and here I am now: Not only am I pleased to see an adaptation
of this story out in the public fold (I have yet to see 1982's version
by Jeff Schiro), I am pleased to see the work of a filmmaker who is not
only visually competent, but also clearly at home in his own style.
Much like The Stolen Wings, The Boogeyman unfolds in dreamlike fashion; we first meet our protagonist, the clearly disturbed Andrew Billings, in the office of Dr. Harper, a man who Andrew makes clear he does not necessarily trust, but with whom he feels compelled to share his story with. You see, Andrew is the father of three deceased children, all of whom perished under what the police believe to be accidental circumstances. Andrew, however, is convinced that there's a force far more sinister at work here and the scenes in the drab looking office are juxtaposed against his memories of a life that only he believed had nowhere to go but up. It is Andrew's voice-over that grounds the film-- though we may not know where in the world he may be going with this (we can only presume that the conclusion will be even more tragic than what he's already let on) we can only go along for the ride, never mind whether he's insane or not.
The Boogeyman is saturated in the same purple hues that gave The Stolen Wings such a mystical appearance. This stylistic choice works even more successfully here when one considers the much darker subject matter at hand. The original score by Cian Furlong is eerily arresting, imbuing the film with an appropriately melancholy atmosphere. This atmosphere in turn serves as the perfect platform for a series of both beautiful and startling imagery. The boogeyman himself, commonly regarded as the keeper of dreams and here presented with all of the misery that follows the average child murderer, creeps his way through each frame even when not actually on screen. His presence alone is felt and we, like Mr. Billings, find ourselves at the mercy of his eyes, which watch our every little move.
The film, in spite of the low production values that encumber many a short film, manages to lift itself up with a rather gorgeous confidence that snatches our attention the moment it gets going. This says a lot for a film that is heavy on dialogue and very low on action. The therapy session itself then assumes its proper role as the entire catalyst for the narrative rather than merely an extension of events that otherwise have already happened. Where one actor would simply approach the role of Mr. Billings with a rather droll air, Simon Fogarty excels at presenting our narrator as not only a deeply frightened man, but also as one hell of a god storyteller. It helps that Lough's screenplay gives Fogarty a lot of meat to sink his teeth into: We end up truly believing that he has gone through all the trials and tribulations that come with not only losing your children, but your marriage and quite possibly, your sanity.
Moreover, I highly appreciated this film because it perfectly embodied all of the fears that King explored in the original story in the first place. It is a tale not only about the creatures that go bump in the night, but also a tribute to the fears our once childish minds still grasp onto--at times with the strength of your average vicegrip--even when adulthood has long established that it's here to stay and you are well aware that these fears themselves are irrational. It is also a story about the fears of parenting and the love for one's children and the creeping terror, in the back of our minds, of our own failure in our duty to love, teach and most importantly, protect.
Mr. Billings is everything we don't want to be.
Why this film: It's been a couple of years ago that the short story
'The Boogeyman' was adapted as a film. In fact, Jeff Schiro's film from
1982 was one of the very first dollarbabies that were made. Finally,
nearly 30 years later, there's a new adaptation of this chilling story.
My opinion: Gerard Lough is an Irish filmmaker, which becomes apparent once the film starts: all actors speak in an Irish accent. It took a while to get used to, but soon you'll realise the conversation between Andrew and his psychiatrist is well understandable. The film consists mainly from Andrew telling his story. At first from the chair, but later also through a voice-over, which brings slightly more action (and diversity) on screen. The boogeyman doesn't get much time on-screen, but you'll feel his presence all the time: those unfamiliar with the story will wonder multiple times if the boogeyman is real or just a delusion from the quite stressed out Andrew. The film has some surprising camera angles, which keeps the viewer involved with the story, despite the lack of action. Luckily the director succeeds the long monologue with shots of Andrew searching his house for the boogeyman. My biggest concern is that the film doesn't have very much action or special effects. Still, Gerard Lough has beautifully portrayed a therapy-session which keeps the viewer at the edge of his seat.
Ending Score: 7,8
Danny Paap, Stephen King Fanclub Netherlands
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