Being born in 1975 put me at a disadvantage for ever seeing The Boogens during its limited run at drive-in movie screens across America. Independently released, even copies of it on VHS were a rarity to come across. As a film student in Los Angeles, countless hours spent researching film libraries across America proved fruitless. Time passed and I gave up. It was put on my own personal bucket list.
Thankfully, that gross omission in my Horror Education has been rectified. Olive Films – releasing the film both on blu-ray and DVD - comes through again. Was it worth the wait? Speaking as a fan of The Evil Dead and Dark Night of the Scarecrow, this film most definitely delivers the laughs and the shocks to make it quintessential to any horror fan’s collection.
Released in 1981 and shown on cable once in 1982, this humble little house of horror earned high marks from author Stephen King writing in Twilight Zone magazine and lesser scores from critics who were offended by its mediocre budget. It, like the monster it contains, slithered away quickly and quietly as it settled into hearsay. For a small group of geeks though, The Boogens never left the drive-in screen of their minds. The poster art itself – of two gigantic skeleton hands holding up (or dragging down?!) a small cabin as they plunge through the earth – is enough to get the imagination bucking. What’s inside is simply timeless.
Written by David O'Malley and Jim Kouf, the film cleverly opens with old-timey newspaper headlines and work their way into the modern era with a montage that shows the history of Silver City, Colorado’s most productive mine. From its discovery to its workers strike to its tragedy to its forced closing and to its re-opening, the whole bloody history of turmoil and wealth is established in about three to five minutes. Obviously, the movie concerns the reopening of the mine and the consequences that lie therein for six people.
Some things shouldn’t be disturbed.
Starring Jeff Harlan, Fred McCarren, Anne-Marie Martin, Rebecca Balding, and John Crawford and Med Flory as a couple of experienced miners, The Boogens has a relatively low body count but manages to remain efficient and imaginative and comedic earning highly likeable nods in spite of its low budget and pedestrian moments. When Old Man Greenwalt (Jon Lormer, from Creepshow fame) shows up to warn the old men and the horny teenagers that reopening the mine will only cause death and destruction, we know all is not well in Silver City.
What they’ve stirred up is slimy, has a tentacle, likes to grip with its claw-like hands, and shows no mercy to humans or dogs. Yes, the poodle dies. But it’s not how, it’s when. Tiger is an energetic animal that loves to get into his owner’s belongings and chew, chew, chew. This is established nicely and humorously enough. Still, this is a “there’s something in the basement” horror film. You know the dog is going to die. Director James L. Conway teases and teases this with low-profile snake-like camera angles as the dog is alerted to the danger in the house time and time again. He pulls back enough to let anticipation and suspense build to the breaking point as the dog is left alone in the house that sits above many caverns that the beast (or beasts) freely travels by.
The Boogens has a nice engine beneath its hood as it builds upon your typical serial killer genre and then routinely tweaks it into a sort of X-Files monster-of-the-week nightmare. It’s smart and a bit rough around the edges. Maybe a bit dragging (more so than the actual Pokemon-looking monster) with its pacing at times, but manages to be an above average entry in the genre.
It is tricky reviewing a movie fairly with over twenty years of anticipation and expectations. Most of those films – you know, the ones we missed seeing when we were younger - eventually fall short of our through-the-roof expectations, though. The Boogens, high expectations and all, manages to satisfy with enough fine-tuned technique and value to make up for the basic sentence-long plot, and just enough spot-on humor to keep you laughing. The Boogens is by no means a radiant example of what great films can be, but it’s class and imagination keeps it from slipping away without impact.
Get it while you can.
MPAA Rating: R.
Runtime: 96 mins.
Director: James L. Conway
Writer: David O'Malley
Cast: Rebecca Balding; Fred McCarren; Anne-Marie Martin; Jeff Harlan; John Crawford
Tagline: Afraid of not knowing... Afraid to find out... After a 100 years someone has reawakened "The Boogens"
Memorable Movie Quote: "The town of Silver City has a secret"
Theatrical Distributor: Jensen Farley Pictures
Home Video Distributor: Olive Films
Release Date: September 25, 1981
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: August 7, 2012
Synopsis: This seldom-seen, well-crafted monster movie involves the reopening of a Utah silver mine which had been closed for nearly 70 years after a catastrophic cave-in, the circumstances of which remain one of the nearby town's most legendary mysteries. When attempts are made to explore the mine shaft, the investigating party never returns. It seems the mine's collapse had served to seal in a nest of weird, multi-tentacled, bloodsucking creatures -- which are now free to seek new prey on the outskirts of town. This simple but intense horror film benefits from good performances and genuine suspense -- providing only quick, spooky glimpses of the title beasts -- building to a thrilling showdown in the treacherous mine shafts.
English SDH, French, Spanish (less)
English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German SDH (less)
Available on Blu-ray - August 7, 2012
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Discs: 25GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Olive Films, The Boogens looks sharp with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. It’s amazing how clear and lively this low budget feature looks throughout this high definition presentation. Color is saturated to a pleasant finesse. Object detail is very good and manages to make the drab early 80’s clothing choices (plaid and work wear) pop with fine detail. There is a strong level of contrast that makes watching the film a pleasure. Some of the elements due fail to meet the HD grade, though. Blame age and the condition of the original print. White flecks are apparent from time to time, but this film is simply not going to get a proper remastering job and we should all bow down to thank Olive Films for this release. From the sound angle, the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio Mono mix accompanying the film has with stood the test of time rather well. The ranges of the mix sound full and boisterous and add a solid element of creep. Dialogue, mostly in the front channel, is clean and clearly presented. All in all, this release gets the experience of The Boogens right.
- Olive Films does The Boogens fans right. There is one special feature and it more than makes up for any flaws in the print. It’s a fabulously informative and newly recorded commentary from Director James L. Conway, Screenwriter David O'Malley and Stars Rebecca Balding and Jeff McKay (now married). The gang is lively and unashamedly frank with the production. They comment on how “awful” the creature looks now and laugh at themselves, but – through it all – a lot of great information about the making of the film is imparted to the listener. Good goofy stuff.
None, but this release comes highly recommended.