Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Rebecca Balding, Fred McCarren, Anne-Marie Martin, Jeff Harlan, John Crawford, Med Flory, Jon Lormer, Peg Stewart, Scott Wilkinson, Marcia Reider
Written by: David O'Malley, "Bob Hunt" (a.k.a. Jim Kouf), based on a story by Thomas C. Chapman, David O'Malley
Directed by: James L. Conway
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 96
Date: 09/25/1981
IMDB

The Boogens (1981)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Don't Open the Mine

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The most notable thing about The Boogens is that it received a rave review from Stephen King in Twilight Zone Magazine; a quote is proudly displayed on the DVD and Blu-ray box cover. But whatever King saw in this movie belongs to him alone. To most of the rest of us, this is a fairly typical, low-rent, low-imagination horror movie of the early 1980s. The best part is the title, which is kind of fun to say out loud.

It begins as a couple of college grads, Mark (Fred McCarren) and the wisecracking Roger (Jeff Harlan), are hired to help open up an old silver mine with a couple of old timers (Med Flory and John Crawford). After work, Roger hooks up with his girlfriend Jessica (Anne-Marie Martin), and Mark luckily hits it off with Jessica's pal Trish (Rebecca Balding). But unfortunately, opening the mine has unleashed the Boogens! And it's time to play "Ten Little Indians."

Director James L. Conway -- who went on to direct several episodes of the various "Star Trek" TV series -- doesn't show the Boogens for a long time, which, normally is good filmmaking. Not showing the creature heightens the suspense and keeps the mystery going. But here, for some reason, it makes things duller. It's good to withhold information and keep the audience wanting more, but it's good to show at least something to entice us in the first place.

The monsters, by the way, are no big deal, and are usually described as part turtle and part crocodile. I'm not sure if there's supposed to be only one creature, which is called a "Boogens," or if there are more than one, and "Boogens" is actually plural. The only other motif Conway uses is a creepy old man who hangs around the mine and leers at people; he doesn't say a word until the final stretch.

The movie does feature slightly better acting than we might expect, and a good selection of character development moments, and the movie gets points for being filmed in the snow of Park City, Utah. But scenes of characters investigating a noise in the basement, complete with false scares (surprise! It's just the dog!), are far too routine.

The intrepid Olive Films has dusted off this old gem from the Paramount vaults and given it a really nice-looking Blu-ray release, with an unexpected commentary track by director Conway, writer O'Malley, and star Balding.

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