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Boogey Man/The Devonsville Terror, The
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by Jack Sommersby

"A Hit and a Miss"
3 stars

The former 4 stars, the latter just 1.

The German director Ulli Lommell shows considerable talent in the low-budget American horror effort "The Boogey Man," shrouding the proceedings with an unnerving intensity that he manages to sustain from start to finish. As the story opens an alcoholic single mother's lech of a lover puts on a pair of pantyhose over his face as he's making out with her on the living-room couch; when he sees her two young children spying on them through the outside window, he ties the boy up in ropes to his bed muffling his mouth; while the couple is going at it again in the mother's bedroom, the daughter retrieves a butcher knife from the kitchen, cuts her brother loose, and he then takes the knife and stabs the frightening-looking man to death while mounting the mother. We cut to twenty years later where the siblings are residing in their uncle's isolated ranch, with the now-grown daughter married to a decent law-enforcement man with a son, with the brother a powerfully-built mute who hasn't spoken a single word since that fateful night. The daughter is given to hallucinations, and at her psychiatrist's advice returns to her childhood home to confront her fears; but in that former slaughterhouse of a bedroom, she sees the image of her mother's deceased lover in a mirror, causing her to smash the mirror to pieces, which winds up releasing the evil man's life force which proceedings to kill anyone either near or reflected in one of the mirror's shards - it glows a bright red-blood color when its power is activated. Suzanna Love, real-life wife of Lommell, co-wrote the script with her husband and is both lovely and appealing as the daughter Lacey, and there's a solid supporting turn by the legendary cult-classic actor John Carradine as her well-meaning doctor. "The Boogey Man" is chock-full of enveloping atmosphere and boasts an inventive sound design that accentuates the suspense, with a nifty double-kill involving a college-aged guy impaled by a sharp instrument through his mouth in his car, and when his girlfriend goes to check up on him the front passenger car door slams her into his face and impales her with the same murder weapon - when their friends see them from afar in this parked car, they think they're engaged in the longest kiss of all-time. A brief eighty-two minutes, the movie is consistently involving despite the occasional lapses in continuity and not quite playing by a firm set of rules, and this is largely because Lommell (who employs effective lurid blue lighting when the suggestive need arises) displays full command of the medium and has succeeded in bringing his enjoyably warped vision to the screen with impressive success. In its own nutso way, "The Boogey Man" is something of a mini-classic. Not to overrate it, but you've never seen anything quite like it in your life.

Unfortunately, Lommell's follow-up is the insipid "The Devonsville Terror," which is all bark and very little bite. Three-hundred years ago in the New England town of Devonsville three women were determined by the Commonwealth to be witches and were subjected to cruel and violent deaths involving gobbling by a wild boar, tied to a burning wheel rolled down a hill, and burned at the stake. Forward to the present day in this same place and three recent female arrivals have irked the ire of this close-minded superstitious, sexist community: one, a Princeton-educated graduate starting teaching duties at the town's sole grade school who dares says God might have been a woman when asked by a young student; second, an environmentalist checking on water samples from a river a local factory has been dumping waste into; and third, a radio DJ talk-show host who advises a caller to leave her boyfriend when he maintains she should not have a job and stay at home - they're perceived to be reincarnations of the three witches their ancestors slaughtered. The local doctor, played by the fine Donald Pleasance, is constantly plucking worms from his veins and hypnotizes his patients into determining whether they're otherworldly vessels channeling those of the Inquisition (I, for one, couldn't make any damn sense of this extraneous stuff); and the creepy-looking overweight town grocer, who just a couple of days earlier killed his bedridden wife by suffocation via pillow, is making moves on the schoolteacher and is floored by her refusal. (When the men are rebutted by these women, they lie that they were unfairly seduced by them.) As was the case with "The Boogey Man" both Lommell and Love collaborated on the script, and it's obvious they're using the Salem witch trials as a metaphor for anti-feminism, but the treatment is so rudimentary and vague it has very little in the way of resonance. And because there's practically zero in the way of suspense and scares "The Devonsville Terror" has nary anything to fall back on. Oh, the opening-credit sequence is admittedly eerie with nighttime views of people slowing moving forth with torches (it has some of the visceral expressiveness you get from Jess Franco in his prime), but most of the scenes are poorly shaped and fail to register on an apprehensive level. Lommell has been afforded a somewhat bigger budget this time around, and it seems to have frozen up a good deal of his creative instincts. All in all, the movie is more of a terror than terrorizing.

Stay clear of the abominable "Boogey Man II" (see review)

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originally posted: 11/20/20 22:11:19
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USA
  07-Nov-1980 (R)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  N/A


Directed by
  Ulli Lommell

Written by
  Ulli Lommell
  Suzanna Love

Cast
  Suzanna Love



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