Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Census Flashback: Doing All The Old Bits

On our Fright Flashback/Census Bloodbath crossover, every week this summer we'll be exploring an 80's slasher film that is in some way a spiritual precursor to the weekend's upcoming blockbuster.

In anticipation of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, which has hired Jeff Goldblum to recite every line ever spoken in the previous films, I'll be reviewing Boogeyman II, a sequel that is mostly comprised of flashbacks to the original 1980 supernatural slasher.

Year: 1983
Director: Bruce Starr
Cast: Suzanna Love, Ulli Lommel, Shannah Hall
Run Time: 1 hour 19 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

The clip show slasher is a grand tradition of the subgenre, helping out sequels that ran out of money across the board from The Hills Have Eyes Part II to Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2. To my knowledge, Boogeyman II AKA Revenge of the Boogeyman, one of Britain's infamous Video Nasties,  is the first of them. This is partially because its original film came out so early in the slasher Golden Age, and partially because arthouse dropout director Ulli Lommel really didn't want to make this movie.

Pictured: Lommel's face during the pitch meeting.

So what did old Lommel do to make a quick buck? He slapped together a ton of old footage from the original, mediocre killer mirror slasher, and whipped up a scathingly meta script with wife/star Suzanna Love. The footage they added was clearly shot as quickly and with as little equipment as possible (my guess is three days, tops), bada bing bada boom.

The story revolves around Lacey (Love), the survivor of the first film, visiting her childhood friend Bonnie Lombard (Shannah Hall, who also shares co-writer credit) in Hollywood, where she lives with her pretentious director husband Mickey (Lommel himself). After telling the story of the killer mirror in excruciating detail for the first fifty minutes or so, she reveals that she has brought a shard of said mirror with her, and it begins wreaking havoc upon the Hollywood hob-knobbers who have gathered at the Lombards' party and want to make a movie out of Lacey's story.

This image returns once more to strike fear into the hearts of men and women alike! Quiver in abject terror! 

Much like Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 before it, Boogeyman II actually negates any reason to watch the original film. It cuts out all the boring bits in favor of the showstopping kills, which were by a wiiiiiide margin the only reason to watch. Unfortunately, it also does this to its own narrative, whatever thirty-some minutes of it that we get. It's a nonstop Lazy Susan of murder sequences, strung together with maybe three or four lines like a bad community theater musical revue show. Although honestly, that honestly doesn't disqualify it from being a good slasher movie.

What does disqualify it is that these murder sequences in no way have the creativity or impact of the original film. The kills are always presented in pairs, choppily cutting between the two players in a way that makes it entirely unclear what is happening, and to whom. Not to mention the fact that the cinematography is murky as hell and the gore is practically nonexistent. It's dark, cheap, and unsatisfying, like a can of generic-brand grocery store beer. 

Then there's the fact that every man in the movie is a Harvey Weinstein, with each kill introduced by some producer or other attempting to trade sex for a role in a movie that hasn't even been greenlit yet. That has aged even worse than the practically obligatory regressive sexual politics present in the average 80's slasher.

It must be so fun to be a woman.

So yes. Boogeyman II is almost entirely void of artistic merit. Almost. You see, Ulli Lommel's disenchantment with Hollywood bleeds through every frame, starting with the fact the he cast himself as the reluctant, put-upon director. Every character on this film's platter of Meat is a grotesque caricature of the L.A. lifestyle, spouting hilariously vain, clueless dialogue that wouldn't be out of place in an episode of Barry

In the few seconds we're given to breathe between kills, Boogeyman II is a savage satire, frequently funny on its own merits, with enough memorable screenwriting pearls that my shortlist of Champion Dialogue quotes was longer than the body count. The shallow, callous way that these Beverly Hills types treat Lacey and attempt to manipulate her trauma for their own gain is kind of magnetically funny, in a twisted, pitch black kind of way.

Sure, it's still a piece of crap. We're introduced to these characters as they step into frame (lit from below like they're telling a spooky campfire story) and recite their names one by one. They teleport around the party and die while in conversation with people we've never seen them interact with before. They name drop Halloween and Blow Out like they have a snowball's chance in Hell of ever being favorably compared to either. I'm not here to say Boogeyman II is a masterpiece. But for a 75-minute fluffball slasher, I feel like I got more than my money's worth. (It probably doesn't hurt that the soundtrack liberally indulges in the first film's license of tracks from the D.C. New Wave band 4 Out of 5 Doctors, my absolute favorite slasher movie party band.)

Mind you, I didn't actually spend any money to watch this movie, but the sentiment remains. The film would have even dragged itself over the threshold to a positive score if the kills had been any good at all. But I enjoyed spending the time with my favorite parts of the original while indulging in a few genuine chuckles, a privilege that very few slashers can afford a discerning viewer. Not that it encounters many of those.

Killer: The Mirror
Final Girl: Lacey (Suzanna Love)
Sign of the Times: The world was apparently clamoring for a sequel to The Boogeyman.
Best Kill: There's a lot of phallic imagery to choose from here, but I'm partial to the one where a man gets an electric toothbrush shoved down his esophagus.

Scariest Moment: The child's toys come to life all around him while he sleeps.
Weirdest Moment: The dialogue turns all echoey for a poolside conversation about goblins between a child clearly dubbed with an adult's voice and the German servant.
Champion Dialogue: "Without people, there wouldn't be... anybody."
Body Count: 18; 8 of which are from the previous film.
  1. Mom's Lover is stabbed in the back in flashback.
  2. Woman is stabbed in the throat with scissors in flashback.
  3. Boy has his neck crushed in a window in flashback.
  4. Woman is hit in the face with a medicine cabinet in flashback.
  5. Boy is impaled in the back of the neck in flashback.
  6. Girl is impaled on the same spike in flashback.
  7. Lacey's Husband has his face melt in flashback.
  8. Elderly Priest is killed during an exorcism in flashback.
  9. Sally is weed whacked.
  10. Sandor is killed by hedge clippers.
  11. Producer gets choked with an electric toothbrush.
  12. Brunette gets her face covered in shaving cream, which somehow kills her.
  13. Bernie is hung with a garden hose.
  14. Blonde gets spanked by a ladder, which shoves her mouth onto an exhaust pipe.
  15. Priscilla has her neck crushed with barbecue tongs.
  16. Jim is corkscrewed.
  17. Joseph is drowned.
  18. Bonnie dies in a car explosion.
TL;DR: Boogeyman II is almost completely devoid of artistic merit, but as a nuts and bolts body count movie, it's weirdly satisfying.
Rating: 4/10
Word Count: 1250
Reviews In This Series
The Boogeyman (Lommel, 1980)
Boogeyman II (Starr, 1983)

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