“Boogeyman” is one of those horror movies in which everyone would be fine if they just turned on the light.
Tim Jensen (Barry Watson of the WB series “7th Heaven”) has been afraid of the dark, and of the dark forces he thinks are lurking in the closet, since he was 8. That’s when he watched his father get gobbled up by a creature — supposedly the boogeyman — who had been hiding amid the clothing and Little League gear.
Or maybe not. Dad may have just taken off, and Tim may just be delusional.
Now at 23, he’s still afraid to reach for his coat, whether he’s at work at the magazine where he’s an associate editor or visiting the wealthy family of his hot, blond girlfriend Jessica (Tory Mussett) for Thanksgiving.
His phobias are repetitive and annoying, actually, especially after we learn that he’s been in therapy for them for the past 15 years. It’s time for him to come out of the closet — literally — which he tries to do by spending the night in his childhood home following the death of his estranged mother (Lucy Lawless, stripped of her “Xena: Warrior Princess” powers).
“Something happened in that house but it wasn’t supernatural,” Tim’s psychiatrist assures him.
It also isn’t that cohesive. As directed by Stephen T. Kay (who also directed the Sylvester Stallone remake of “Get Carter”) and written by three people (Eric Kripke, Juliet Snowden and Stiles White), “Boogeyman” is a slapdash amalgamation of horror sights and sounds.
Tim gets help in overcoming his fears from childhood friend Kate (Emily Deschanel, who bears the same husky voice, big blue eyes and comfort on camera as sister Zooey) and a creepy little girl named Franny (Skye McCole Bartusiak) who follows him around and shares his concerns about closets.
Not to give away too much, but “Boogeyman” clearly owes a huge debt to the far superior “Poltergeist.” It also shares something with last year’s Japanese horror remake “The Grudge”: the presence of Sam Raimi as producer. And like “The Grudge,” it features Raimi’s name up high in the movie’s ads.
You can sort of see how the creator of the cult classic “Evil Dead” series (and most recently the director of the astonishingly successful “Spider-Man” movies) might have been attracted to “Boogeyman.” It’s incredibly traditional in its scares: a dark house at night, a creaking staircase, noises and shadows in the bedroom that would keep any imaginative little boy awake.
The movie is sufficiently moody, and you may find yourself jump a couple of times — even though you know better — but it degenerates into laughably ridiculous territory toward the end when it strays from the idea of a vague threat and becomes far too literal.
It certainly isn’t so bad that it needed to be kept from critics before opening day, a tactic usually reserved for films that are truly abominable. “Boogeyman” isn’t nearly as hideous as say, the recent “Alone in the Dark,” which was shown to critics before hitting theaters, even though it never should have seen the light of day in any form.