Tim (Barry Watson) is haunted by his past, figuratively and literally. He’s disturbed by memories like his dad locking him in a closet, but he’s also bothered by the fact that his dad was killed by the boogeyman. (Kids! You never know what’s gonna set ’em off.) When his mother dies, Tim returns to his hometown for the funeral. He’s also hoping to reconcile with the past by sleeping in his childhood house. After reconnecting with old friend Katie (Emily Deschanel) and making friends with a young girl not unlike himself as a child, he realizes he must do what he has never done: face his fears.
The boogeyman concept is an almost guaranteed scare for me, and I first watched this movie expecting to be freaked out. I was sorely disappointed, as it relies on cheap startles—things happening suddenly like a bird flying into Tim’s windshield—rather than the main attraction. (Eventually the monster does make an appearance, but he’s so CGI’d that he’s no creepier than something made by Pixar). Another overused tactic (which many filmmakers are guilty of these days) is Tim’s hallucinations. Is something in the closet? What’s that behind Tim? It’s a big fake-out! Every time. There are so many of these sequences that I stopped caring what was actually happening. And don’t get me started on the tacked-on ending and how useless Tim’s girlfriend Jessie is.
For me, there are only two scenes in the movie that are effective. The first is at the beginning, when child Tim is freaked out by the boogeyman. His dad huffs in to show him there’s nothing in the closet, and moments after he concludes it’s empty he’s yanked inside. The second is when a grown-up Tim and Jessie go to a motel. While she takes a bath, he visits the ice machine. He returns to find her completely gone. Upon checking the closet, he finds himself back at the house. After driving back to the motel, he finds bloody hand-prints on the tub. We’re left to imagine what happened to Jessie, and none of the scenarios are pleasant. (One of my least favorite ways to die: nabbed by a boogie-guy while bathing.) Not showing the monster until the end of the movie is meant to work like this, making us use our imaginations against ourselves, but doesn’t; instead it’s (forgive the cliché) all sizzle and no steak.
This time around I did admire the camera angles; there are a lot of low angle and tilted shots, indicating that something is wrong. I also like how Tim’s face is lit; the filmmakers use a lot of soft lighting (or super bright lighting) to make his face look pretty.
Most of the cast of Seventh Heaven has made a horror movie, and none of them are terrific, so don’t expect greatness from Watson. But if there are fans of the show left, I recommend it to them, as there are few scares and not much gore. Xena fans: Lucy Lawless is barely in it, but she looks kinda cute as a blond. Since Renee O’Connor is in Boogeyman II, make it a double feature.