I decided to check out The Boogey Man on the recommendation of Paul Farrell (@paulisgreat2000 – look him up) and was very pleasantly surprised by what I found. This underseen gem from 1980 is a slasher film that also bears hallmarks of possession and theological horror, all rolled into one surprisingly effective package.
The Boogey Man tells the story of siblings Lacey and Willy (played by real life siblings Suzanna and Nicholas Love). As children, they endured horrific abuse at the hands of their mother’s boyfriend. One night, Willy crept into their mother’s bedroom and killed the man while the pair were having sex. Lacey witnessed the scene through the reflection of a wall mirror. Now grown, Lacey seems to have mostly healed from the trauma, whereas Willy stopped speaking soon after. Whatever progress Lacey has made is upended, however, when they receive a letter from their estranged and dying mother, requesting one last visit from her children.
Naturally, the events of her childhood come rushing back. In an attempt to alleviate her anxiety, her husband Jake (Ron James) convinces her to visit her childhood home to try to make peace with the past. The house is up for sale, so they pose as a couple interested in purchasing the property. When she enters the bedroom and is confronted with the mirror in which she witnessed the murder, Lacey flies into a rage and smashes it.
This is where things get interesting. From the shards of glass returns the monster. The shattering of the mirror lets loose the trapped soul of her mother’s boyfriend—the Boogey Man who has haunted her throughout her life. Now free, the spirit follows Lacey home, intent on exacting revenge on the siblings.
The film is fascinating in that it is very much a supernatural slasher film. And yes, Jason, Michael and Freddy are all supernatural in the sense that they don’t necessarily play by the rules of the natural world and they can’t seem to be permanently killed, but in the case of The Boogey Man, the killer is actually a spirit. A revenge-driven ghost that stalks its victims, exacting bloody, horrific violence on every person it comes into contact with. The classic traits of slasher films are all there – the killer POV shots, the violent backstory, the need to exact revenge for a perceived wrong – it’s just all within the context of a disembodied killer that we never see.
As the film progresses and the killer begins to make his presence more known in Lacey and Willy’s lives, the film begins to take on characteristics of possession horror as well, complete with a priest working to keep the spirit at bay. Director Ulli Lommel even borrows visuals from The Amityville Horror with the use of a Dutch colonial-style house, complete with evil eye windows. This crossing of subgenres proves to be quite effective, and pleasantly clean. Oftentimes, when a film tries to make this jump, the result can be muddled, but here, it really works and delivers a slasher film that doesn’t find itself too boxed in by convention.
The Boogey Man is an underappreciated entry in the slasher genre and one that is very much worth your time. Though it takes its time to get going, it is time well spent because it gives you the opportunity to get to know the characters and their lives. The kills are great, the story is engaging, and above all, it is creative. It jumps over genre tropes and uses the elements that it needs to tell its story with confidence. A great watch for the Halloween season.
Horrorella is a genre-loving nerd who can be found all over the internet, but primarily on Twitter @horrorellablog, where she gabs incessantly about movies and cats. She is also the sometimes co-host of the Dead Ringers Podcast and has written articles for Bitch Flicks, Bloody Disgusting and the Women in Horror Annual.
Trailer for the 1980 film The Boogeyman. A young girl witnesses her brother murder a man through a reflection in a mirror. Twenty years later the mirror is . a television trailer for writer-director Ulli Lommell’s 1980 horror film The Boogeyman, starring Suzanne Love, Ron James and John Carradine.