So there you are; you’re prepping for an ’80s movie marathon. You’ve invited your like-minded horror-fan friends, compiled your snacks and beverages, and have lined up a kickass bill of the terrific creature features that were the calling card of the decade…
…what’s that? You don’t have a long, celebrated list of monster flicks chosen for your ’80s bash? Why, that’s what the 1980s are known for, right?
No, I haven’t lost my mind…that was just a cheap stunt to get your attention (and provide a decent intro!); of course, we all know that despite efforts like Critters, Aliens, The Funhouse, Pumpkinhead, Humanoids from the Deep, and others, the ’80s is remembered as the Age of the Slasher; it was almost a “mask of the week” era, when horror filmmakers spent their time (and effects budgets) trying to one-up each other in the “creative kill” department, raising the gore ante and choice of edged weaponry much to the delight of we Fellow Fans. Still, I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the good ol’ monster movie, and although they were overshadowed by their machete-and-ax-wielding brethren, there were nonetheless some long-leggedy beasties of note that came out of that period.
One of my personal faves from this particular section of the vault is James L. Conway’s 1981 effort, The Boogens.
Mark and Roger are two swell guys that have been hired by a company that goes around reopening old, presumed defunct mines. One such mine, closed down since a terrible tragedy in the early 1900s, is top of the list for this crew, and the two friends, along with Roger’s girlfriend Jessica and her best friend Trish, rent a home near the old mine so that the duo can begin their work. Soon after the miners begin work on the location, testing decades-old beams for strength and reopening caved-in passages, they discover a strange, subterranean cavern, complete with a lovely pool of water…and a pile of human bones. One of the bosses suggests that these must be the remains of the miners trapped in that cave-in so many years ago (later on, Mark makes the obvious observation that bodies caught in a cave-in wouldn’t likely be in pieces and piled up, but that discovery comes a bit late), and the work moves on. Meanwhile, Mark seems to be hitting it off pretty well with Trish, and the foursome seems to settle in to their rental property well…until Roger disappears one night, the truck he was supposed to take into Denver still sitting in the garage. Soon after that, first her yappy little dog and then Jessica herself runs afoul of something lurking in the ventilation of the rental house, while at around the same time a weird old man (there were a lot o’ those guys back in the ’80s) shows up in the mines to warn the remaining work crew of the horrors that had been trapped in the depths that they have now set free…
The flick takes a little time to get started, but in my opinion the little extra time spent on some character development, especially amongst the quartet of young peeps, is well-spent. The background info and set décor lends itself to a lot of authenticity, and the performances on the part of all the principals are solid and believable. There are a few incongruities with the script (why the hell are there tunnels connecting the mines to the houses? And how did opening the front tunnel to the mine open all of these, too?), but as with any low-budgeter, you gotta take a little on faith. Most importantly, Conway knows his strengths and weaknesses, and balances them well into the creation of a pretty enjoyable flick; deft use of sound and first-person camera work to develop the titular monsters is a smart move, keeping the reveal of the creatures whole and in one place to rapid-cut quickie shots in the closing minutes of the film, thereby reducing the shortcomings of the visuals by a huge degree. Gorehounds will get some bloody bits, with sharpened tentacles ripping open our protagonists in close-up glee, but without really devolving into cheap exposition. Taking a page from Spielberg’s Jaws, the fact that you don’t see the monster for most of the flick, just the aftermath it leaves in its wake, constitutes a much greater level of fear and anticipation that a lot of the more exploitative films of the day seriously lacked.
Although it followed a similar formula to the more popular slashers of the era, using such techniques as POV shots, some gratuitous nudity, and spurting blood, this little flick was a monster movie, through and through. From the opening credits that set up the entire backstory through a montage of old newspaper clippings (which foreshadow a lot of the film, if you’re sharp-eyed and paying attention), nice camera work, and overall good performances, The Boogens acquits itself quite nicely as a creature feature amongst the mad slashers of that sparkling decade.
I like this one a lot, folks…it certainly isn’t the best of the best, but it’s a good, overall creepy time in front of the ol’ screen…and that’s always been good enough for me.
My two pennies for today.
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