by Mel Valentin
Horror flicks from the golden decade of the 1980s don’t get any weaker or less entertaining than "The Boogens," released in 1982 to critical indifference and, more importantly, audience yawns. With an unimaginative premise, tentacled monsters unleashed from a newly opened mine, a small, bored-looking cast, sadly, an even smaller body count, little gore, and next to no T&A (of the same woman, in two brief shots), potential viewers, even hardcore, mildly discriminatory horror fans with a taste for early 80s cheese, should give "The Boogens" a permanent pass at the local video store or internet rental service. Seriously (unless, of course, you're a fan of box cover art and have no intention of actually giving "The Boogens" a view).After a surprisingly professional credit sequence (i.e., a sepia-toned montage of newspaper photos and headlines centered on a mining disaster in 1912), The Boogens settles into yawn-inducing mediocrity. As the final newspaper photo slides into color, the audience is introduced to the generic heroes, Mark Kinner (Fred McCarren) and his horndog friend, Roger Lowrie (Jeff Harlan), who can’t stop talking about his sex life or his girlfriend’s imminent arrival in the sleepy, snowbound town of Silver City, Colorado. Mark and Roger have temporarily moved to Silver City to help reopen a local silver mine. Due to a mining disaster where several men lost their lives, the mine was closed. Now, presumably with new technology, the mine will be reopened for business. Given their relative inexperience, Mark and Roger are merely assistants. Two older men, Brian Deering (John Crawford) and Dan Ostroff (Med Flory), supervise the reopening.
"Lame early 80s horror flick with only one monster. Talk about cheap."
Roger’s girlfriend, Jessica (Anne-Marie Martin) and her close friend, Trish (Rebecca Balding, TV’s Soap) arrive in town, Jessica to move in with Roger (and Mark in a two-floor house) and Trish, a reporter about to start a new position with the Denver Post, ostensibly to help with the move. Tragically (ok, using the word “tragically” anywhere in a plot synopsis for The Boogens is a stretch), party central is located over an old mine tunnel, giving the tentacled monsters of the title easy access to a few choice morsels, including Tiger, Jessica’s annoying toy dog. The unlucky location gives journeyman director, James L. Conway multiple opportunities to have “tense” scenes play out inside a darkened basement (that, and multiple monster-cam shots meant to create tension, all failing miserably). Add an old man, Greenwalt (Jon Lormer), whose “mysterious” presence always seems to cue ominous music on the soundtrack and the local, befuddled deputy sheriff, Blanchard (Scott Wilkinson), and the cast of characters is all but complete.
All or most of the cast will fall to the ravenous appetites of the Boogens (or rather “Boogen” as the tight budget seemed to allow for the construction of exactly one creature, which closely resembles Gamara, the giant, flying turtle featured in Japanese monster flicks in the 1960s and resurrected in the 1990s or the tentacled monsters from a mid-60s Hammer production Island of Terror, with the inestimable Peter Cushing in the lead role). Audiences will accurately guess who lives, who dies (and why), and in what order. There are no surprises here. Absolutely none. Sadly, the miniscule budget translates into a low, almost blood- and gore-free body count, with almost an hour between the first and second victims to fall to the Boogens. Even after the second victim has met his grisly, mostly off screen death, the storyline slows down to a crawl, while one characters goes to work, another character researches the mine’s history at a newspaper office, and another, get this, bakes a cake.
With the running time coming to a close, the Boogens dispatch their victims with increasing frequency (mostly in the last twenty minutes). Conway, probably aware that his monster wasn’t likely to scare six-year old girls, smartly decided to keep the monster hidden until the last five minutes, when we finally get to see the Boogen in all its ridiculous, laugh-inducing glory. At that point, The Boogens should have ended with either the director or a surrogate (preferably in a crisply pressed, white linen suit) stepping on set to declare the film was, in actually, an elaborate joke on the audience. No such luck.From our first sighting of a Boogen (and yes, it’s an absurd name for a monster meant to inspire terror in the audience), we treated to the cliché of a none-too-bright character getting too close to a seemingly dead Boogen (he’s wrong), the same character standing, struggling with the obviously floppy monster puppet and, finally, an escape through the mines, with a single Boogen (there may be more, but again, we never see them) hissing at the survivors’ heels. Cue final explosion, cue end credits (after almost 95 minutes). Thankfully, the audience isn’t treated to the predictable set up for a sequel (i.e., rubble moving to reveal a still-surviving monster). Luckily for audiences everywhere, there wasn’t one.
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originally posted: 08/21/05 16:29:41