Release Date(s)1980 (July 25, 2023)
Studio(s)Jerry Gross Organization (Vinegar Syndrome)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: C+
- Extras Grade: A-
At the conclusion of John Carpenter’s seminal 1978 horror classic Halloween, after Michael Myers has seemingly been vanquished at the hands of Dr. Loomis, Laurie Strode turns to him and states, “It was the Boogeyman.” The response that Loomis gives to her demonstrates his breathtaking inability to understand his former ward:
“As a matter of fact, it was.”
As a matter of fact, it wasn’t. Setting aside the matter of the endless stream of sequels that followed, in the context of the original film, Loomis couldn’t possibly have been more wrong about Michael Myers. He wasn’t the Boogeyman, nor was he the embodiment of pure evil, either. No, he was simply insane, with the mind of an eight-year-old boy trapped inside an adult body, playing childish games with deadly consequences. The casus belli for his war against teenagers was the illicit sexual activity of his older sister, even though that fact is never directly addressed in the film itself. The only real evil in Halloween was of the purely Freudian sort.
Two years later, writer/director Ulli Lommel’s The Boogey Man followed the same basic template, this time with the supernatural horror made manifest. Once again, a young boy snaps because of the sexual activities of a family member, and he leaves a corpse in his wake. In this case, the boy is named Willy, and it’s his mother who’s the promiscuous one. Worse, her boyfriend actively abuses Willy and his younger sister Lacey—with his mother’s active approval, no less. After Willy is tied up by the creep, Lacey uses a knife to free her brother, and Willy ends up using the same knife on the boyfriend.
Like Halloween, the action then picks up twenty years later, when the grown-up Willy (Nicholas Love) is living with Lacey (Suzanna Love) and her husband Jake (Ron James). Willy may have escaped being institutionalized in the same way that Michael Myers was, but he still hasn’t spoken a single word since that fateful night. So far, so Halloween, but that’s where all of the similarities end. While The Boogey Man does offer some ambiguity regarding Willy’s sanity, the real threat is of a very different sort. As a child, Lacey witnessed Willy’s murder of her mother’s boyfriend via the reflection in a mirror, and as an adult, she suffers from nightmares that start to become manifest through the same medium. The sins of the mother may have been visited upon the children, but the sins of the children will be revisited on them by something else entirely.
Despite the fact that The Boogey Man was an offshoot of Halloween that landed near the beginning of the Eighties slasher cycle, it’s arguably not really a slasher movie at all. The film offers plenty of victims who are killed off in inventive fashion, but the horrors that Lommel presents are of a much more primal sort. Halloween may have glossed over what really triggered Micheal Myers, but The Boogey Man fully leans into childhood fears of abuse, abandonment, and human sexuality. Rather than turning the victims of these fears into killers, Lommel extends their victimization into adulthood. The real horror of The Boogey Man is that you can’t always escape your past.
While there’s little doubt that Lommel did use Halloween as a launching point for his own story, he freely mixed in elements from other films including an ineffectual psychiatrist (John Carradine) and an equally ineffectual priest (Llewelyn Thomas), the latter of whom creates more problems than he solves while he investigates the haunting. By the end of The Boogey Man, it’s not just the supernatural horror that’s been made manifest, but also the allusions to The Exorcist and The Amityville Horror (the design of upper story of the house leaves no doubt about the latter). Composer Tim Krog’s closing credit theme even strays suspiciously close to Tubular Bells at times. That’s not to say that The Boogey Man feels derivative—quite the opposite, in point of fact. Lommel took all of these familiar elements and blended them into something distinctively weird, especially when compared to the other Eighties horror movies that followed in the wake of Halloween and Friday the 13th. It’s not necessarily unique, but it does offer a unique flavor that sets it apart from the rest of the pack.
Cinematographers David Sperling and Jochen Breitenstein shot The Boogey Man on 35 mm film using Arriflex 35IIC cameras with spherical lenses, framed at 1.85:1 for its theatrical release. This version utilizes a new 4K scan from the original camera negative, graded for High Dynamic Range in HDR10 only. Things don’t start out promisingly with the opening establishing shot outside the house, which looks pretty ragged. There’s a fair amount of damage visible, including frequent speckling, and some density fluctuations as well. But don’t judge this particular book by that cover, because as soon as that shot is over, the rest of the film looks fantastic—well, aside from a single establishing shot of a church later on that has similar issues (not sure what it was about establishing shots with this production). Damage is barely visible throughout the rest of the film, and there’s an impressive amount of fine detail on display. Facial textures, clothing, and environmental elements like grass or gravel are all beautifully well-resolved. There’s plenty of denim in The Boogey Man, from jackets to overalls, as well as a few sweaters, and all of the fibers and fuzz are nicely delineated. There’s no information out there about the film stocks and lenses that were used, but the cinematography in The Boogey Man is sharp as a tack, and it really stand out in 4K.
The colors in the HDR grade are rich without being oversaturated, although the reds and the greens in the explosive finale do push saturation levels to the limit, but that’s an appropriate way to render the supernatural shenanigans happening onscreen. The flesh tones are a little inconsistent—John Carradine’s skin looks a bit too pinkish in one series of shots, but perfectly natural in another series of shots a few minutes later that utilized the exact same camera setup. Still, there are only minor variances, and none of them look too exaggerated. It’s safe to say that The Boogey Man has never looked this good, not even in its original theatrical release. A few minor nitpicks aside, it’s one of the best looking 4K transfers of any low-budget horror film from that era.
Audio is offered in English 2.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio, with optional English SDH subtitles. There isn’t any noise or other age-related artifacts, but the music does distort whenever it hits any peaks, and the dialogue ranges from sounding harsh to being so muffled that it can be difficult to understand. All of that is due to deficiencies in the original recordings, not because of any issues with how the audio was mastered for this release.
Vinegar Syndrome’s 4K Ultra HD release of The Boogey Man is a two-disc set that includes a 1080p copy of the film. The insert is reversible, with new artwork on one side and alternate theatrical poster artwork on the other. There’s also a spot gloss slipcover available directly from Vinegar Syndrome, limited to the first 7,000 units, that was designed by Haunt Love. The bulk of the extras were newly created for this edition:
DISC ONE: UHD
- Audio Commentary with Kat Ellinger
- Audio Commentary with Terrell Tannen
DISC TWO: BD
- Audio Commentary with Kat Ellinger
- Audio Commentary with Terrell Tannen
- Scenes from a Marriage (HD – 38:57)
- Boogey Man, and So On (HD – 33:59)
- Pick-up Girl (HD – 8:21)
- Cuts from the Mirror (HD – 20:38)
- Boogey Man as Art (HD – 15:01)
- Archival Interview with Ulli Lommel (Upscaled SD – 18:00)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD – 2:07)
- TV Spot #1 (HD – :34)
- TV Spot #2 (HD – :34)
Author, editor, critic, and all-around Renaissance person Kat Ellinger states up front that she’s not going to praise The Boogey Man as a lost masterpiece, but instead wants to appreciate it as one of the most psychotronic slasher films ever made. She rejects the comparison to Halloween (even though she inevitably can’t avoid making a few comparisons of her own), since she feels that The Boogey Man is far nastier and more messed up, with a distinctly European kind of perverse sexuality. She sees it as more of a precursor to A Nightmare on Elm Street than as a Halloween knockoff. She talks about Ulli Lommel and his relationship to his wife Suzanna Love (hold onto that though for a moment), as well as his relationship to The Boogey Man itself, and she also explores how the film fit into the Video Nasty period in the U.K. during the Eighties.
The second commentary with editor Terrell Tannen is moderated by Vinegar Syndrome’s Brad Henderson. They discuss how he became involved with the project, which was a learning experience for him, and how it really was a family atmosphere on the set. (Tannen says that everyone wore multiple hats.) They cover practical details like how the first cut ran less than an hour, so that’s why it was padded out with reshoots (needless to say, all of John Carradine’s scenes were added during that process). They also talk about the score by Tim Krog, and speculate about what happened to him. Tannen is an energetic speaker and his memories are fairly clear, so he was less in need of moderation than some other commenters, but he and Henderson still have good chemistry and they work well together.
Most of the rest of the extras consist of newly-produced interviews. The appropriately titled Scenes from a Marriage features Suzanna Love speaking candidly about her life, career, and relationship with Lommel. She’s open about her own drug abuse, and even more open about Lommel’s abuse of her, as well as the pragmatic reasons for their marriage. All that, and she does actually talk about The Boogey Man as well. Boogey Man, and So On offers cinematographer David Sperling, who was the original DP for the production, while Jochen Breitenstein was brought in later for the reshoots. (Sperling was already busy with another project). He’s also credited as co-writer under the pseudonym David Herschel, and was involved in many different capacities. Pick-up Girl is an interview with Catherine Tambini, who was one of the actors who was added to the production during reshoots. (She plays the infamous temptress who tries to seduce Willy in a barn.) Cuts from the Mirror brings back Terrel Tannen, who covers similar material to what he did for his commentary track, but with a few additional stories along the way. Boogey Man as Art features camera operator Jürg V. Walther, who was also brought in for the reshoots.
Finally, there’s an archival interview with Ulli Lommel that was taped for the 2015 Blu-ray from 88 Films in the U.K., just two years before he passed away from heart failure. The only noteworthy extra that’s missing from previous editions is Lommel’s German-language commentary track that was included on the 2019 Region B Blu-ray from CMV Laservision in Germany (it’s not clear when that track was actually recorded). CMV also offered Tim Krog’s soundtrack on CD, so if you’re lucky enough to own that set, you’ll definitely want to hang onto it. Otherwise, this new Vinegar Syndrome release supersedes all others. It’s hands-down the best home video presentation of The Boogey Man, and it looks pretty damned impressive considering the low budget and the complicated production history of the film. Vinegar Syndrome has included a fine slate of extras as well, kicking them off with two worthy commentary tracks, and adding in some genuinely interesting interviews to boot. It’s a great release of a title that needed a little TLC.
- Stephen Bjork