The horror creature feature is a strange combination, but when it works, you know it. When it doesn’t, there’s a surefire reason why. Depending on how old the film is, the reason could easily make a lot of sense. Or the reason is just that it’s a bad idea turned realized as a film.
The Olive Films (originally Jensen Farley Pictures) and Taft International Pictures film “The Boogens”, might just be suffering from both, age and bad concept all rolled into one not so great package.
This horror film stars Rebecca Balding (“Charmed”, “Yesterday’s Dream”), Fred McCarren (“The Golden Girls”, “The Boost”), Anne-Marie Martin (“Sledge Hammer!”, “Highway to Heaven”), Jeff Harlan (“Anger Management”, “NCIS”), and John Crawford (“Hardcastle and McCormick”, “Matt Houston”).
It is directed by James L. Conway (“Cult”, “Switched at Birth”) and written by David O’ Malley (“Dangerous Women”, “Dark Honeymoon”) and Jim Kouf (“Grimm”, “A Fork in the Road”).
The film was released in 1981.
While the idea, which is simple enough, seemed like it would be a winning one, it fell far short of the silly expectations I had. I originally had stumbled upon this book called, “The Boogens” and delayed in reading it only because my mother had it first, pretty normal. It seemed vaguely familiar to her and she distinctly remembered it as some film, well there is a film (this film?). Eventually I got around to reading it first, as goes the proper order, and enjoyed it! The most frightening thing I’ve ever read. Time for the movie! Well, I feel I got two different things. This, surprisingly, has nothing too do with the idea that things change in a film adaptation. I’m curious, which came first, the book or the movie? It doesn’t really translate the same as a movie adaptation and doesn’t read like a novelization of the movie. Granted, this is the early 1980s, so things could’ve been different at that time, but I doubt it. There were plenty of surprises to follow.
The overall story seemed to be the same for both book and movie. With the exception of one character completely, every character in the movie was featured in the book, just with a last name. There were mines, cave ins and creatures! Plus, the house and annoying dog too! That can’t be a coincidence. There were also several scenes that played out very closely to that of something in the book. And finally, one of the listed authors of the book, is the same man who produced the film. This is why I’m puzzled. There was no “based on the book”, or anything. A mystery I may never see solved.
Anyway… back to the movie…
The titular “Boogens” were sadly very scarce. The whole, now typical, way of not revealing the creatures, but showing that they are in fact stalking you, was fine. You could see the main character(s) from the creatures point of view, and watch as they got creeped out. Even the first kill worked well like this. You know its the creature, but only see the victim being attacked. However, while it was nice for a bit, it dragged on far too long. By too long, I mean over an hour of the films run time. If you saw any of the creature, it was it’s arms, as it clawed at something or tried to grab it. However, even when this started, it was brief and quick. You never got a full look at the claws or scaly arms. Then, when the film has about 15 to 20 minutes left, you finally get the full picture! But! it lasts for about a total of five minutes. And it wasn’t even that scary. All that build up, for nothing. Such a let down.
The films plot, also suffered from this absolutely unnecessary old man. He didn’t even have a name, but somehow, at the last minute, proved himself useful. The writers decided that he’d just pop in an out of the film, randomly and mysteriously. What I’m sure was meant to be a question raising approach, it proved irritating. Every time, he’d show up he’d do some random little thing, usually staring at people from a distance or walking a bit, but nothing more. Too make matters worse, he’d have his own dramatic and suspenseful score accompanying him. It too served no purpose. I would expect something like that from the creatures maybe being near, but no, it was used for him. Sadly, and this is what I felt this film really needed, he was the reason why the title of the film, the creatures, was even mentioned. At some last moment, towards the end of the film, he’s going on about how it’s bad the mine is reopened. No other reference to them is ever made. At least when SyFy (or SciFi) movies are done, especially creature ones like this, there’s some town legend or some other stupid reason. Nothing. People suddenly just know there’s danger and try and destroy it. Another thing the book did well.
Lastly, to cap off this one, there’s the fact that the film suffered from some pretty bad, but standard acting. The dialogue was cheesy too, but it’s what I’d expect from the early 1980s. At least they got that right. The creature designs were also pretty poor. While I’m certain they were of the puppet variety, that didn’t help. At times I felt that the arms were probably just arms and waved in front of the camera, or they were regular arms covered in make up. This is ultimately what made them not frightening at all. More like these cute animals I want to take home and keep as a pet.
The last time I read a book first and then watched the movie version, was with “Along Came a Spider”, and the result was pretty much like this one. Maybe not a horror film, but a let down overall. One that had nothing to do with the way it was adapted and everything with expectations. Too make this even worse is that this is one horror film I simply expected a lot more from. I was actually thinking I may get scared, or at the very least, have an enjoyable experience. I ended up with neither. It’s a sad day when a film from the ’80s can’t scare you. After all, isn’t that what the ’80s somehow managed to do so well?