The Boogens (1981)
WRITERS: Story by Tom Chapman & David O'Malley
Screenplay by David O'Malley & Bob Hunt
DIRECTOR: James Conway
STARRING: Rebecca Balding as Trish Michaels
Fred McCarren as Mark Kinner
Anne-Marie Martin as Jessica Ford
Jeff Harlan as Roger Lowrie
John Crawford as Brian Deering
Med Flory as Dan Ostroff
Jon Lormer as Blanchard
QUICK CUT: Some mining friends and their girlfriends move into a new home in Silver City, Colorado while they work to open a mine. Oh, and also, while working on that mine, they release rubbery turtle creatures with big nasty pointy teeth.
Mark - An engineer working as a miner because the money is good, and he gets to travel. He's a typical good guy, smart, funny, outgoing, and eager to help.
Trish - A journalism major who has gotten a job with a Colorado newspaper, and come out with her friend, and been set up to meet Mark as a possible love connection. For a character from the 80s, she's rather well rounded and doesn't fall completely into damsel in distress mode.
Roger - Mark's friend and coworker, and Jessica's boyfriend. He's not that unique from Mark, but he is hornier...
Jessica - Roger's girlfriend, and she *does* fall into the damsel in distress trap. She does have some good dialogue though, and has a good presence in the film.
The Boogens - Mysterious creatures that appeared mysteriously in the Silver City mine, and mysteriously started mysteriously eating people. And now they're mysteriously back!
THE GUTS: Welcome back! Sad to say, this is yet another movie I had not planned to review yet. I am still waiting on one movie, my planned replacement has yet to be released yet due to delays there, and so here I am, trying to find another movie when plans A *and* B fail me.
Fortunately, that gives me the excuse to get to The Boogens, a cult classic I've wanted to review for awhile, but always forget and move past for other movies. Hey, Stephen King loves it, so how bad can it be, right??
The credits set up the history of this silver mine, by panning and zooming over so many photos and newspaper headlines, I'd swear this movie was directed by Kevin Burns. But it effectively sets up that there was a catastrophe where 27 miners died, several other collapses, and eventually the mine being shut down, leading us to the present day where it's being opened back up and repaired by a new crew.
We are quickly introduced to our two male leads, Mark and Roger, eagerly awaiting their girlfriends coming up to visit while they work to get the mine up and running. Roger's major concern is how long it's been since he's gotten laid.
The movie spends a goodly amount of time establishing these guys, and there is something about the dialogue I *really* like. It's witty, the guys are funny, they have a good rapport...there is almost something Whedonesque about the dialogue. No pop culture references like Joss, but that cleverness and jokey, friendly nature, really makes me like these two guys, and even their boss at the mine.
Oh, and it's also worth noting that Jess is bringing her friend Trish along, as a blind weekend long date for Mark to meet.
Anyways, the guys get set to blow open the mine, but they are not alone. They're being watched over by the local old guy who's probably gonna come down and yell about them all being doomed any second now.
Before that can happen, we see a woman swerve off the road to avoid hitting a deer, complete with an "I brake for animals" bumper sticker on her station wagon. I guess she does! Truth in advertising!
She crashes her car into a snowbank, and heads to the home the guys and girls will be moving into over the course of the movie. She owns the place and is making sure there aren't any monsters lurking in the basement.
At this point in the movie, it's actually a fair assumption she might be a main character, and I was totally on board for that...until she hears a noise in the basement and is quickly dispatched by a Vogon...er, boogen. Which is probably better. Far less poetry.
I have no idea why I didn't see her death coming, but I was quite pleased with the swerve, and the appearance of Something Being Wrong at this point in the movie is a welcome addition to keep the tension going. Aided by not seeing even a hint of the creature.
Back at the mine, they check out their work with the TNT from the night before, and instead of finding the expected two tunnels, they actually find a third, which leads to another cave in that they work to clear.
Meanwhile, we finally meet Jess and Trish, driving their way to meet the guys, and not exactly being aided by Trish the navigator. Oh, and there's also Jess's dog, Tiger. Do not assume he's a big dog, with that name.
The little poodle-like ratdog zooms out of the car at the first chance he gets, and you just know he's going to be trouble. And probably get eaten pretty quick.
Meanwhile, the guys at the mine have dug out their tunnel, and found an underground river. Complete with piles of human bones!! That is your #1 sign to Get Away Now.
The girls arrive at the house, and there's some more of that good dialogue, friendly banter, and genuine chemistry between the girls. Which gets interrupted when Trish tries to take a bath, and needs to go into the basement to turn on the water heater.
We get a nice scene of Trish searching through the basement, while the tension builds because she's being watched. And that's when Tiger gives us all a decent jump scare. I'll allow it, because we know there IS something more down there, and it's a good way to keep us guessing, and the girls thinking they're worrying over nothing.
The movie finally gets our four leads together, and Mark meets Trish, who just got out of the shower, and forgot to cover up completely. And there's more fun dialogue as everyone meets, and the dog continues to steal scenes.
Our puppy overlord tries to warn Mark by growling at the basement door, but nobody listens to poor Zathras. Also, there's a very prescient line Mark has about how whatever is down there is probably twice the dog's size and could easily beat it up. Just you wait.
I don't know how this movie pulls it off, but they make a scene between Mark and Tiger, and later Trish, to actually be really fun. We get to see Mark's a bit of a goof, and is one of the few people the dog will listen to, and there is instant chemistry between the two humans in the scene. Heck, with the dog, too.
Just in case you hadn't guessed by now, this movie is a slow burn, with only a few instances of attacks before the final act. The rest of the movie has to be carried by the characters and writing, and this movie really pulls it off. I genuinely really like all these people, and wish I could hang out with them. I want to be their friends, I don't want to see ANY of them die, and you get a lot of looks into who they are, what they do, and how everyone ended up here, with a lot of fun dialogue.
But right, back to the plot, the local sheriff shows up looking for the owner of the house, since they found her car still in the snow.
With that dealt with, everyone heads to dinner, and leaves Tiger alone to tear up the place. It's more good character building with Jess showing off her skills at pool, taking everyone's money, and even the lengthy scenes of Tiger exploring the house are a lot of fun. Well, fun with a lot of lurking terror of Boogens.
The movie continues to just tease us with what the creatures might look like, as the PoV camera chases poochy around the house.
We get a bit of a subplot with sending Roger off to get updated maps and out of the way so he can easily disappear for a bit and no one will notice. Jess has also promised to make a cake for everyone. This movie asks the important questions; will they get their chocolate cake??
Everyone else continues to have fun, but Roger drops the truck off at home, finds the mess Tiger and his Boogen friend have made, with no sign of the dog. Instead, he takes a nap before his long drive in the morning.
After his nap, Mark gets ready to leave, but gets attacked by tentacles slashing and tossing and dragging him around, until he's very much dead. There shall be NO chocolate cake for Roger.
Mark and Trish return home to consummate their budding relationship, while Jess tries to hustle more money at pool back at the bar. They look for Roger, but assume he's left early, wondering why he left before they would have cake!
After making the boogen with two backs, and Tiger showing back up, they wake up the next day. Man, how much does it suck to be Roger? The DOG outlived you, dude.
They look around some more for Tiger, and he shows up after Mark finds a strange shaft in the basement. They really ought to board that up, it's surely letting in a draft, taking away their heat, and oh, right, boogens.
Mark heads off to the mine for work, and a reminder that there will be chocolate cake tonight. Will there? Will there *really*? They keep teasing me with this chocolate cake. I am beginning to doubt anyone will have their cake and eat it too.
Okay, that's sign number TWO to get out.
At least Jess does get to *make* the chocolate cake, and meanwhile at the mine, old man Smithers grabs some birthday candles. No. Wait. That's dynamite. Is this cake for Wile E. Coyote??
Trish heads to the local paper where she works, and wants to do some research on the mine. Good, we are long overdue for some research and explanations. Which we don't REALLY get, save for finding out there was a survivor, which comes into play later.
Oh, forget it, the survivor is old man Smither's dad, who knows about the creatures, and his family has been watching over the mine ever since to make sure they don't get back out. Well, so much for that.
Meanwhile, Jess finally discovers that the truck Roger was supposed to take to pick up the maps, is still in the garage, but no Roger to be seen. She calls Trish, Trish goes to the mine, the Denver office never heard from him, and no one can find Roger anywhere. He wouldn't just disappear without having cake!!
Back at the house, Jess takes a shower because implied nudity, while Tiger hears growling and tries to deal with creatures in the vents and whatever.
The dog watches as spikey tendrils peel away the heating vent, and when he goes to peek down into them, his yelp finally draws the attention of the showering Jess.
She comes out to investigate, and finds the grate, sprinkled with bits of fluffy hair everywhere. Oh, and then she gets grabbed by the arm, but fortunately doesn't fit down the hole.
Jess escapes, but is pretty scratched up. And the movie continues to not show us anything as the creature climbs up out of the vent and chase her around the house Sam Raimi style.
But she gets cornered in the pantry, the creature bursts in, and slashes her up with its spikey tendrils of doom. She may have made the cake, but she will not get to eat it. Will no one have cake??
Over at the mine, the guys in charge of the project have found something in the water, and oh look, that's where Roger disappeared to!
Finally, that's when old man Smithers decides to walk into the main plot, and deliver his warnings about the mine. Dude, you are a terrible harbinger. You don't tell everyone their doomed at the END of the movie.
Mark shows up too, sees Roger, and wonders how Mark got there from the house. Old Man Smithers explains that there are tunnels leading from the mine to most of the houses in town.
...Why? Why did that happen? And why isn't anyone else dealing with the Boogens? If not, it's a hell of a coincidence to have the miners' home be the only one opened up by the kaboom.
Mark realises the girls are in danger and rushes home, leaving Smithers and his dynamite with the foremen just kinda standing there. Why don't we put the lighter down, or at least get it faaar away from that fuse, yes?
Before the miners or Smithers can bother with bombing the mine closed again, one of the guys gets attacked and dragged off down the underground river.
And with 15 minutes left to go, Smithers finally gives the creatures their names. This movie isn't exactly big on establishing any sort of mythology for them, no.
Trish and Mark converge on the house, and Trish finds traces of blood all over the place, from Jess which leads her to the basement once more. And in the final ten minutes we finally get to SEE the creature. And why we don't see it until now. Which is fair enough, I guess. I would've liked to have had more of a presence, but being a pretty cheap effect, seeing more would've been dangerous, and actually the slow reveals of seeing nothing, then tentacles, then more spikes, and finally the real deal, actually works in their favour.
She finds Jess's bloody body, freaks out, and tries to escape. But the dreaded tentacles of Boogen grab her legs as she's running up the stairs.
The sheriff arrives and puts a few bullets in Kermit the Boogen, and Mark reassures Trish that she's safe, it's all over now, but nope! Say it with me now, the creature is Not Dead Yet! Even turtley mine creatures know that trick.
Surprise! As the cop is poking it to make sure it's dead, the creature jumps up and bites his face off. I guess that means even he won't be having cake, what with no face. This is why you poke at horror monsters with something longer than your snub nosed pistol.
Mark comes along and stabs it deader with a pitchfork, and yeah! Something like THAT will do the trick nicely!
Oh, and while they were thrashing around, they knocked a gas line loose that bursts into flames. Howabout a little fire, boogen??
And it STILL is not dead, but it's probably close, and probably won't survive the imminent cremation. I hope.
The fire consumes the stairs out of the basement, so Mark and Trish make good use of the overly convenient plot tunnels and escape into the mine. Followed by a pretty awesome fireball.
Before they can make good their escape though, another of the boogens attacks Mark, and Trish drops a giant rock on it. I'm gonna go with 'probably not dead' but it will buy them enough time to seal off the mine, I guess.
They find Brian the remaining foreman, they find some dynamite, and so they blast the place closed for good. Or until someone else decides its time to reopen the mine and make some money, unawares of the turtley bastards waiting for them.
Oh, and Brian the miner is our one last casualty by Boogens before the final explosion seals them off.
And so Mark and Trish trudge off through the snow, away from the mine and into the sunrise, to live happily ever after.
Video: Pretty decent, although the darkness sometimes overtakes things, especially when they're trying to hide the monsters.
Audio: It definitely sounded decent, with a good enough mix, and the monster howls came through nicely.
Sound Bite: "No! NO! Yoooou opened up the tunnels! Yooouu let 'em out! Yooouuu wouldn't stay away when I warned ya!! Now I gotta blast it closed agin!"
Body Count: It takes a while to get going, but the movie sprinkles death all along the road, and comes up with a respectable amount.
1 - 18 minutes in, Martha dies by the monsters in the basement.
2 - Roger gets his throat slashed and dragged off into oblivion.
3 - Tiger finally gets eaten by the house's heating system.
4 - The boogen chases Jess around before slicing her neck too.
5 - One of the miners is grabbed and dragged away
6 - Smithers tosses around some dynamite, but is soon dragged off too.
7 - Local sheriff gets face devoured by Boogen, film at 11!
8 - Brian almost escapes the mine, after nearly being exploded, but the Boogens get him in the end.
And not a single Boogen was harmed during the making of this film.
Best Corpse: The award goes to the poor sheriff who poked a bit too much at dead things. He gets his face nicely chewed on, and the actor has fun spinning around while hugging the puppet.
Blood Type - C+: Not a ton of blood, but they still manage a decent, average amount, mostly in the end when the creature gets shot and stabbed, with a few decent gushers when throats get slashed. Bonus points for the creature. Sure, in reality it looks cheesy and rubbery, but I like it, and it has a unique charm.
Sex Appeal: Trish's bare butt makes an appearance, and Jess has implied nudity.
Drink Up! Every time someone dies, keep it simple.
Video Nasties: Easily the highlight of the movie, here's the basement fight with the creature, and the death of the sheriff.
Movie Review: Y'all have seen me talk about slow movies before, and what makes one work and the other not is always interesting. I think the biggest thing is actually giving the threat an active presence. Even if he doesn't actively DO anything, having your monster THERE and watching, keeps that tension slooowly ratcheting up. This is so important to a horror movie. Building that up, making the audience wonder, when, when, WHEN?? Killjoy 2 failed spectacularly at this. Another important thing a movie can do, is build up the characters, have them doing things to make them interesting, likable, or at the very least, fun dialogue if you're going to make them scumbags. Again, Killjoy 2 failed here. The Boogens did a really solid job on both of these counts, as not much happens until the final third of the movie, but the monsters are always there, their look being tricklingly revealed, and having really likable characters with fun dialogue. Now. All that said, this is also very much a generic monster movie, with at least a unique creature. You've probably seen this sort of movie before, and it really is very much familiar. But the dialogue really pops, and there's a solid enough story here, even with plot shafts large enough to mine through. The movie's biggest crime is because we've been here, but it's not a bad version of familiar ideas. Three out of five little dogs.
Entertainment Value: Normally, a slow burn movie isn't very FUN, and the Entertainment Value dips because of that, but the characters and dialogue here are so much fun, you don't miss cheesy acting or strange plotting. Like I said, I genuinely liked these people, was smiling a lot during the movie, and even though it's slow, it moves fairly quickly. My main complaint is that the titular creatures are so rarely in the movie. Yes, it was deliberate to keep the cheap effect hidden, but having that silly thing running around more often would've really raised the bar. Still, I enjoyed myself immensely, and while there's not many bad elements to laugh at, the good ones are just that good and entertaining, so I still give it a four out of five pieces of chocolate cake. Which is all for me!