Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Summer of Slash: Boogeyman II (aka Revenge of the Boogeyman)

Two summers ago when I reviewed The Boogeyman, I failed to mention who wrote and directed it. Perhaps I was so in awe of the film’s wackiness that it just totally slipped my mind, but don't you worry, dear reader, I won’t forget to mention the name of this brilliant auteur this time around. For, you see, Ulli Lommel is the man responsible for not one, not two, but three versions of The Boogeyman! Yes, there is Boogeyman II (more commonly referred to as Revenge of the Boogeyman), a film which ended up on the Video Nasties list right alongside the original for the sole reason of using about 40% of the footage from the first film. But there is also another version of Revenge of the Boogeyman that Lommel released in the early 2000s: Revenge of the Boogeyman: Redux. Think on this for a moment...


...It takes a special kind of person to make a Revenge of the Boogeyman: Redux, so let’s talk about this person. Ulli Lommel is kind of an interesting story. He was an AD for Rainer Fassbeinder, worked with Warhol, and then went to America and made the first Boogeyman, which was at least wacky and weird that it went down easily enough as an off-the-wall horror entry. He seemed to be paving the way for at least a semi-interesting career in the horror genre. But then he either got lazy or just wanted to be someone that worked a bunch because his career doesn’t mirror at all someone that worked with such unique and eccentric creators, nor does his career after The Boogeyman even suggest a filmmaker that was capable of making that movie. He’s somewhat of a known thing — a lesser Uwe Boll, if you will — on Netflix; he’s known for making awful modern horror movies that center around serial killers like Richard Ramirez and the BTK Killer, and almost all of his films come with reviews that bear the warning: “Beware: this is a Ulli Lommel film!”

Much like the later-released and favorite amongst horror fans (for all the wrong reasons), Silent Night, Deadly Night 2, Revenge of the Boogeyman is essentially a rehashing of the first film, using a lot of the footage from the first film to pad out its already short 79 minute runtime. That premise: the shard of glass from the broken mirror (the cause of all the havoc in the original Hallo...oh, sorry, The Boogeyman) returns...this time to Hollywood! Lommel pops up as the director of a horror film whose wife keeps nagging him to make commercial films because his experimental, arthouse films just aren’t bringin’ home the bacon. So he sets off to make a horror movie (which according to this film, making a movie in Hollywood amounts to nothing more than a pool party).

The movie crew in Hollywood is now being stalked by the shard of glass as they try to make a film about the events of the first Boogeyman movie. So there’s lots of exposition about how making horror movies affects people, and there’s all kinds of attempts made to make Revenge of the Boogeyman some kind heady, postmodern horror picture (points for pre-dating more popular self-reflexive horror films like In the Mouth of Madness and New Nightmare...I guess). There’s also just tons of scenes of these wannabe Hollywood-ites sitting by the pool pontificating about random shit like the leaves changing in Autumn or the types of things that are only interesting to people who live in LA (my favorite being two aspiring actors talking about the roles they're up for, and the male actor mentions that he’s being considered for a role in the a film that’s a combination of Smokey and the Bandit and Star Wars, which sounds a million times more interesting than anything going on in this movie). But it doesn't take long for the viewer to figure out what’s really going on here: padding. And lot’s of it. I think after the first Boogeyman, Lommel genuinely was frustrated that he couldn't make weird, experimental films like his mentors, but his attempts here at horror are just beyond lazy.

Most of the film is lit so shoddily that it’s almost impossible to make out what’s happening on screen —  not that it matters though since most of the film is just rehashed footage from the first film. But I will say this for the sequel: they chose the best parts of the original film to showcase once again. The original Boogeyman was such an odd mix of supernatural horror, mean-spirited slasher, and wacky dead teenager slasher movie— and it seemed to gleefully content to allow all of these scenes to bounce from one to another, coming off as nothing more than bizarre non sequitur after bizarre non sequitur.

Unfortunately, we're subjected to the horribly cruel violence-to-children opening from the original (a scene I really disliked, and the primary reason the film ended up on the radar of the DPP), but thankfully we get the original film's cheesier scenes: the death-by-medicine-cabinet scene pops up again, and, best of all, we once again get the brilliant hot dog cooking scene! The latter which, as I mentioned in my initial review, seems so out of place with the rest of the film because it introduces four teenagers that do all of the things they're supposed to do as teenagers in a slasher movie — but nothing about The Boogeyman suggests that it’s going to be that kind of slasher movie. But there it is, a type of mini-Bay of Blood smack in the middle of a random supernatural horror movie that begins with an opening setpiece that is nothing more than an extremely cruel ripoff of the opening of Halloween.

So there ya go. And if it seems like I'm reviewing the first film all over again when I'm supposed to be talking about the sequel...well, it's because most of the sequel is the first film. All of the best scenes of the first film inserted into the second, so there's really no reason to see the original, I guess. Once the sequel’s story truly kicks off, there are about 20  minutes of the film left, and the setpieces are just as asinine as they were in the first film: shaving cream, electric toothbrushes, corkscrews, and ice tongs all become instruments of death in Revenge of the Boogeyman. And it’s all made more horrible because of how awful and lazy it all comes across as — a cop out, for sure, by Lommel who is certainly trying to pass it off as some kind of heady, meta take on making movies (horror movies in particular) by having his characters talking about how stupid it all is, and that horror movies are only good for “making money.” Ugh.

But it doesn’t stop there. 20 years later, Lommel and his handheld camera returned to re-edit Revenge of the Boogeyman as a kind of director-gone-insane version of the film. So instead of a story surrounding the making of a horror movie, Lommel essentially takes key bits of dialogue and plot and attaches them to himself, claiming that he went mad making that movie (which was about the making of the first movie), and that all of the deaths from the second film (shown in fast forward all Benny Hill like...I’m not joking) were the cause of him going mad. Or maybe he was the one doing the killing. I honestly couldn't keep it straight. What I do remember is that we’re supposed to believe that Lommel, in 2002 (still wearing a horribly dated purple ‘90s Starter brand cap), is being interviewed by the police (the set is just him at a desk in what his probably his house) about some murders that have happened. So we get re-edited footage of the first film again. Only this time it’s about 80% of the first film, 10% of the second film (which maybe is less because it's all in fast forward), and the final 10% is of Lommel sitting in front of the camera being “interrogated.”

Basically, Lommel lifts some elements of the story from the second film as he talks about how he and his wife were in bed one evening, and she told him he needed to start making money due to the fact that his arthouse films weren’t making the kind of money she needed to live on.  He was hesitant to do this, but he agreed with his wife that they did need some money coming in. That’s pretty much all I get out of the Redux version: his wife drove him to make the movie which in turn caused him to murder a bunch of people. So is money bad? Are we to blame his wife? The movie industry? Violence in horror films? Nothing is made clear, and that's what is so hilariously awful about the Redux version (if you're insane and curious like I am, this version of the film is, I believe, available on Youtube).

Of course, in the hands of a legitimate filmmaker, this kind of material could turn into an interesting horror movie (again, I’ll invoke the titles In the Mouth of Madness and New Nightmare), but Lommel isn’t interested in any of that. In fact, Paramount wanted to make the sequel with Lommel, giving him a bigger budget to work with (the first film was profitable as it had the fortune of coming out the same year as Friday the 13th), but Lommel declined, stating that he didn't want to work for a major studio. Because, you know, artistic integrity and all. In fact, he underlines, bolds, and puts into italics this point about not wanting to work with a studio budget with a moment of dialogue in Revenge of the Boogeyman that sticks out like a sore thumb; it goes something like this: one of the characters rips into Brian De Palma’s Blow Out because De Palma spent 17 million on making the movie, but audiences hated it, to which Lommel's character responds, “You could make 17 movies for that price!” I don't know what ultimate point he's trying to make, but it made me laugh; I felt compelled to share with all of you one example of the things that are inside the mind of Ulli Lommel.

Nothing about this man’s subsequent career suggests that he’s capable of making anything other than a quick buck on recycled footage. Both The Boogeyman and Revenge of the Boogeyman are decent pizza and beer movies if you’re with the right group of people, but be warned: stay away from the Redux version. It’s so bad it makes the editing of Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 look like inspired filmmaking.  There is an interview on the Hysteria Lives site where Lommel talks about how anyone can use footage from his Boogeyman films as long as they pay, and that the payment could be as little as a dollar depending on his financial situation. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at that statement. Oh, he also mentions that as he gets older he wants to leave a legacy and aspires to make great, memorable films that are not safe or mediocre or part of the status quo, citing the likes of Buñuel and Pasolini as examples of filmmakers that were making “subversive” and “rebellious” films late into their careers. And that he hopes to be making those kinds of films well into his 90s. Okay, I think I’ll laugh now.


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