Monday, June 4, 2018

"Evil Can Happen Anywhere in the Universe, Just Like Love" - Return of the Boogeyman (1994)

In the genre of movies that are made up primarily of footage from previously released movies, the sequels to Uli Lommel's The Boogeyman (1980) are perhaps the most satisfying. Today we look at 1994's Return of the Boogeyman, directed by the talented co-director of The Chilling (1989), Deland Nuse.

Of course, not all critics see the genius in films such as Return of the Boogeyman. For example, on IMDB, reviewer Red-Barracuda writes, perhaps a little obtusely, "There is nothing here of value at all. This is worthless." Sic Coyote writes, with an interesting flair for spelling, that the film is "one of the biggest pieces of tripe I have ever scene." Reviewer TC-4 writes, "Everything about this total waste of my time makes me angry that anything this bad is sold....Any TV Movie would be a pleasure to watch after this turkey."

I disagree that any TV movie would be a pleasure to watch after Return of the Boogeyman. In fact, I am not certain I understand what that means. In any case, let us investigate Deland Nuse's filmic meditation on trauma, the supernatural, and a certain earlier film directed by Ulli Lommel...

A woman in a dress runs across the beach underneath a boardwalk. She uses a paring knife to cut a green apple. Suddenly, a man wearing pantyhose on his face (echoing an early scene in the original The Boogeyman) touches her shoulder and she runs away.

The man chases her under the boardwalk, but she easily escapes to the crowded beach.

In the next scene, the woman’s therapist, with whom she is living, cracks open a brand new notebook and starts writing about her case. “Annie has been my guest at the beach house for the last three months,” he narrates as he writes. “We’ve gone through various types of therapy but I still have to get to the bottom of it.” (The perceptive audience might wonder if the therapist would have achieved better results if he had started writing his notes three months ago at the beginning of therapy.)

It seems that Annie’s dreams are filled with visions of a man with no face (i.e., a stocking over his face). Prompted by her therapist, who hypnotizes her, she narrates a vision from The Boogeyman (1980) in which the young brother and sister are punished. “The man, he ties up the boy and gags him,” Annie narrates over footage from the original movie.

“Why is he doing that?” asks the therapist, whose actual name is Dr. Ricky Love.

“He’s mean,” explains Annie.

She narrates the entire opening murder scene of The Boogeyman, in which the brother kills his mother’s lover while the sister Natalie watches. (I believe the sister was called Lacey in the original film.)

While Annie sleeps, another young person, Vincent, arrives at the therapist’s beach house and offers to be the man’s assistant. He also moves into the house. Vincent’s primary purpose appears to be holding a tape recorder at an awkward angle while Dr. Love hypnotizes Annie in the bathroom.

After Annie narrates another murder scene, Dr. Love realizes he must warn the people in the apartment where the fantasized murder scene occurred that they are in danger. Of course, Annie and Vincent accompany Dr. Love to the apartment.

A man in a cowboy outfit opens the door. “This is a city of a million stories,” says the cowboy. “Every second there is another one. What makes you believe I’m interested in yours?”

For no apparent reason, much of the apartment sequence is monochromatic.

The cowboy is excited that Annie believes there will be a murder in his bathroom at midnight.

Dr. Love asks, “Do you mind if we hang out in the dark and wait to see if anything happens?”

Of course, the cowboy responds, “Should be lots of fun.”

We watch a man wash his hands twice in the premonitory murder bathroom. Then we watch Dr. Love back at his beach house writing in his diary: “Nothing has happened. Annie was wrong. Thank heaven for that.” The murder did not occur.

Instead of investigating further, the mismatched trio spends the day at the beach. While Dr. Love watches, Annie and Vincent romantically frolic, fully clothed, at the edge of the water. Dr. Love informs the audience via voiceover that he can’t help thinking of the woman in the bathtub—the one that apparently was not murdered, and might not exist.

However, the good doctor is quickly proven wrong, as in the next scene we watch the woman get in the bathtub again, exactly as in Annie’s dream. She is murdered by a mysterious gloved man who drops her large radio into the tub, instantly electrocuting her.

This time, the cowboy finds the woman’s body in the bathtub, so he calls Dr. Love and the trio return to the cowboy’s apartment. The cowboy says about Annie, “She only made one error. She announced Alicia’s death exactly 24 hours before it happened.”

(In a lesser film, the characters might point out that a warning against visiting the cowboy’s bathtub at midnight might be helpful, but Return of the Boogeyman is not so traditionally plotted.)

Dr. Love insists that Annie visit the bathroom so she can psychically investigate the murder. Dr. Love holds his hand in the Bela Lugosi fashion to instantly hypnotize Annie. “It’s not the man! It’s not the man! It’s the mirror!” she exclaims.

Then Annie flashes back to the scene in The Boogeyman in which Lacey (now called Natalie) is possessed by a demon on John Carradine’s couch.

The possession gives Dr. Love an idea. “I’m beginning to understand the secrets of the mirror,” he explains. “If Natalie can materialize right here to take Annie’s place, if Annie could get into another body, maybe she could warn someone else who’s in danger.”

Everyone feels this is a realistic idea, so Dr. Love hypnotizes Annie yet again by forcing her to look into a mirror.

“Step forward and into the world of the mirror,” instructs Dr. Love. “It wants to show you secrets.”

This hypnosis session allows the film to flash back to another scene in The Boogeyman—and then, of course, back to the initial murder-by-child scene in The Boogeyman.

Annie and Natalie are psychically connected now. Annie sees more scenes from The Boogeyman. As we watch the scene (the visit of Lacey and her husband to the murder house), Annie tells us in great detail what each of the characters is doing. “She enters the bedroom. It’s the room of the murder. She looks at the bed and everything seems okay.”

In order to do justice to the spirit of Return of the Boogeyman, I feel I must include my description of the flashback scene from The Boogeyman here:

Lacey and Jake find the murder house, which has a For Sale sign in the front yard. On the front porch, Jake performs a complex twisting routine to ring the doorbell. The door is answered by a teenage girl eating an apple. She says her parents are away for the weekend, but her sister and little brother are in the house. Lacey and Jake explore the old place, which has been updated a little, and now has a telephone in the middle of the staircase. 
When they reach the upstairs bathroom, the little brother rips open the shower curtain and yells, "Boogeyman!"
The little boy entices Lacey to follow him to the master bedroom. She glances at the mirror, which must be one of those expensive mirrors that retains traumatic images, because she sees the man her brother murdered 20 years earlier lying on the bed. 
The man rises and moves toward Lacey, so naturally she smashes the mirror with a chair. This action is looked upon as out of the ordinary by the teenager watching the house.
Jake bends down and starts cleaning up the broken shards of mirror. Lacey asks him what he is doing. "Picking up the pieces of the mirror," he says in something of a daze.

Let us now return to Return of the Boogeyman, currently in progress.

Annie begins narrating under hypnosis. She describes another scene from The Boogeyman—the shower murders, though oddly only the aftermath of the first two murders is shown, plus the final death in which the woman is bumped in the face by the medicine cabinet door.

Let us return to my review of The Boogeyman describing this scene:

Finally, the last sibling, after folding towels for several minutes, finds the shard and picks it up. It forces her to find her brother and sister dead in the bathroom. Then it kills her by opening the medicine cabinet, tapping her lightly on the forehead and causing her to fall down, dead.

Back in Return of the Boogeyman, Annie says, “He’s not gone. He still exists.”

“Where?” asks Dr. Love.

“Everywhere,” she responds chillingly. “You can’t see him but he is everywhere.”

Perhaps believing herself to be in a vampire film rather than a slasher sequel, Annie chops up a clove of garlic, then looks at her reflection in the knife blade, though she sees another face there.

While Annie sleeps, Dr. Love addresses Vincent (though Vincent has not asked any questions). “And as for your other question, evil can happen in the universe at random, just like love. It’s a mystery.”

In a chilling and, some might say, confusing scene, Annie dreams she is tied to a bed like the young boy in The Boogeyman. Incongruously, she also dreams she is knifed in bed, just like the lover/murder victim at the beginning of The Boogeyman.

“Who is that man?” Dr. Love asks Annie.

“He abuses women." She clarifies, "And he’s evil."

Annie then recounts the lakeside murder sequence from The Boogeyman.

Later, Dr. Love investigates his own mirror, though it has no apparent connection to the evil mirror of the original film.

Strikingly, Dr. Love has Annie lie on the mirror in her bed to connect her more with Natalie.

Helpfully, Annie explains the ending of The Boogeyman: “With the mirror in her eye, Natalie is now part of the man with no face.”

Dr. Love has an epiphany: “Natalie will not die. You will become Natalie.”

As she narrates the climax of the original film, Dr. Love adds, “You must enter Natalie’s body, Annie. You must warn her.”

Somehow, she does enter Natalie’s body, and she is able to suggest that the characters from the first film toss the cursed mirror into a well, which they did in the first film and which they repeat here.

The end of The Boogeyman thus frees Annie from being supernaturally stalked by the man with the pantyhose over his face. Annie narrates, “I’ve finally won the battle over evil. The man with no face is gone.” She adds, “Now I must try on stockings to prove to myself one last time that I am free.”

She pulls on her stockings, presumably the symbol of the man with no face.

Just like The Boogeyman, however, Return of the Boogeyman ends with a somewhat nihilistic twist, and Annie finds out that, stockings or no stockings, the man with no face still exists.

While most critics in your universe appreciate repetition in films, and heap praises on classics such as Last Year at Marienbad (1961) and Back to the Future II (1989), for some reason they do not include Return of the Boogeyman or the previous sequel Boogeyman II (1983) in their list of repetitive classics. Perhaps these critics feel that watching a film released years earlier with new characters narrating the actions in the previous film is too "meta," to use a colloquial term. These critics, of course, are incorrect. Watching a previously viewed film with a commentary on the soundtrack is not only one of the most enjoyable forms of entertainment available today, but it is also quite informative. I for one particularly enjoyed the narration explaining the end of The Boogeyman (for example, I did not understand after two viewings of that earlier film that Natalie/Lacey became part of the man with no face due to the mirror lodged in her eye).

Return of the Boogeyman can be read as an example of the futility of defying fate. In the end, Annie attempts to psychically enter Natalie/Lacey's body as Natalie/Lacey experiences the climax of the earlier film. However, we watch as the ending of the first film does not seem to change. Despite Annie's desperate hope to eliminate her dreams of the man with the stocking over his face, she is unable to make a difference. Perhaps this is a lesson for us all.

And perhaps not.