Everyone has their staples for Halloween watching, like John Carpenter’s “Halloween” and “Nightmare Before Christmas.” But be forewarned, gentle reader, because your master of Scarimonies (God, I sound like the Crypt Keeper), Dukey Flyswatter, will suggest some gems and themes that may have flown drastically under your radar, like a schizophrenic Vampire Bat. Week three we focus on drive-in gems and Just plain weirdness.
The Boogens (1981)
Director: James L. Conway. Stars: Jeff Harlan, Rebecca Balding, Mark Kinner, Jessica Ford.
Even at its debut, “The Boogens” had a nostalgic vibe built solidly on the bones of 50’s monster flicks. The film was evocative of warm summer nights at the drive-in with the sound of chirping crickets, the smell of take-out chicken and a six pack or two to share with your date (or whomever piled in the car with you).
Two wise cracking, sex-obsessed pals are aiding in the re-opening of a silver mine that has been closed since 1912, when a series of mysteries deaths forced it shut down, and the towns folk to shut up. Only one miner survived, and he spent the rest of his days in an asylum.
Into the scene come two girlfriends, one of whom is dating a novice miner. The other is just helping her move into a log cabin, and perhaps can be a blind date for the other twenty-something miner. While blasting with dynamite to uncover the damage of a cave, the supervisors of the mine project discover a tunnel that is not on the map. It leads to an underground grotto, and where that ends no one knows. A creepy old codger begins to hang around, but to what purpose?
From here on it’s a predictable but enjoyable creature feature as the unseen critters from the mine travel through tunnels under the city and eventually under the cabin where our characters (belt notches for the monsters) reside. The critters drag the people into floor heater vents and basements with extendable arms with sickle-like hooks at the end. When the monsters do appear in the last fifteen minutes, it’s up to you to decide the scare factor: scary, scary for kids, or pretty goofy-looking.
Despite the casual nudity, silly sex talk and prerequisite gore, “The Boogens” has a good nature to it. It’s never crass, and the characters may be a notch above stereotypes, but they are quite likable. The script by Thomas C. Chapman and Bob gets us from A to B at a moderate pace, and then ups the ante in the last act interjecting some good scares along with the surprisingly wholesome fun. Perhaps the most surprising element comes from the inclusion of a totally obnoxious toy poodle named Tiger. His trainers deserve big praise because this pup displays dozens of tricks you don’t normally see in a vehicle of this ilk.
“The Boogens” can be bought on Blu Ray and one or two streaming sites.