The Chronicles of Horror Movie Night: The Boogens (1981)

Posted by Damon Swindall - August 31st 2011 @ 10:10 am


After starting in Washington D.C. nine years ago Horror Movie Night has expanded to include chapters in Austin, Dallas and Chicago. Horror’s Not Dead’s own Brian Kelley is the originator and programmer of this illustrious weekly Wednesday night tradition which features a “classic” horror film. Each week I will be reviewing/commenting on the past week’s selection so do your best to find the film, most of which have not made it past VHS, and follow along. Better yet, start your own chapter!

VHS for The Boogens

1981 must have been a hell of a year for mining horror. Just a couple months in and the Canadian spelunking slasher My Bloody Valentine hacked its way into the hearts of horror fans everywhere. Little did they know that an American production was underway for release in September that would also bring terror up from the mines. This film would not be a hack-and-slash flick like its predecessor, but instead contain killer creatures from deep within the Earth – The Boogens.

After being closed for many years due to a number of unexplained deaths, a new company is trying to get a Colorado mine up and running again. A small group is blasting their way through the cave-ins and checking everything out before getting started with a full crew. The two younger guys on the crew, Roger and Mark, are awaiting a couple of ladies to stay with them at their new house for the winter. Roger’s girl Jessica is bringing along Trish, a journalist recently employed at the Denver Post. Once they arrive, bad things begin to happen at the house and the mine because of all the recent blasting. Something strange has been once again set free.

That's no good.

This is the second time I’ve seen this film in the past year or year-and-a-half, and I can only say that it only gets better upon repeat viewing. For one thing, this time I enjoyed the characters more than previously. The creatures themselves are still just as cool and the star of the show, who we’ll definitely be discussing momentarily, is just plain fantastic! What really works here is the small cast. There are only four leads that get the majority of the screen time, and just another six people with varying degrees of importance or relevance. The two miners are your typical twenty-somethings. Both are fresh from college and ready to tackle the world, but still full of that fun, partying spirit and an almost insatiable sexual appetite. They are always either cracking jokes or Roger is counting down aloud to Mark as to when he’ll get to see and sleep with his girl again. Some of their exchanges really remind me of the relationship between David and Jack in An American Werewolf in London. I’m not saying they are better than those two, or even equal, there’s just some comfortable quality shared between the two pairs of buddies.

The first victim we see in the film is the woman who goes to turn on the heat and get the house ready for its new tenants. On her way she swerves her bitchin’ station wagon to avoid hitting a deer and the icy/snowy roads send her into a ditch. I know that I lived in a time where cell phones were not commonplace, but this is just a horrible situation to think about without the aid of a phone. Pitch-black night skies in an unlit rural area, very cold and who knows how far you’d have to travel to find help. I know it’s not as bad as I’m probably making it out to be in my head, after all she doesn’t seem too upset about it. But if this was an unfamiliar area to her she could have been walking all night. I barely go to the bathroom without taking my iPhone along – you never know what’s going to happen. Yeah, I depend way too much on technology, but I’m not alone. We’re all pussies.

Tiger's the man!

Ok, I’ve put it off long enough. I must now mention the most awesome character in the film: Tiger. This is Jessica’s little white dog. He made the trek up to the snowy town to move into the house with them and he is full of energy and mischief. From the first moment you meet this mutt it’s clear that he’s a force to be reckoned with. He leads the girls on a chase when he runs off in the woods to pee only to be waiting atop the bright yellow Volkswagen bug when they return. Such a smartass, I love it! This is just the beginning of his antics as he steals clothes, attacks Roger when he and Jessica are trying to get busy, and his unflinching stares at Mark are pure hilarity. There’s one moment in the film where he jumps up to the bed to gnaw on a shoe and his little sideways hop over the bedframe is amazing. This little dog provides so much fun for the viewer, but it’s crazy how much each of the four leads, including his “loving” owner, seem to hate the dog. They constantly bitch about what he does and threaten the little guy. You feel sorry for him. Especially when he meets his off screen whimpering end at the claws of a Boogen. Poor Tiger.

Aside from the zany antics of little Tiger there really isn’t much in this film that’s funny on the unintentional 80s cheese level. For the most part this is a pretty serious movie, there are lines that are supposed to be funny and the rest of the film is rather straight forward. However, it is odd that there seems to be a central sex room at the house. After Roger and Jessica have their fun and he is supposedly gone for work, Mark and Trish are in that room for some reason, and that is where their lovin’ begins. Luckily they move to the clichéd rug in front of the fireplace for the deed but I think that room might have some sort of sexual powers.

Boo!

What about the actual Boogens, you say? Well, they are exceptional but a little underused if you ask me. You don’t really get a good look at them until the last ten minutes of the movie. I can completely understand the whole suspense thing, but they look so cool that it’s sad that once they are finally fully revealed we don’t get any more. Through the film we see they come from an underground water source that the miners find so we know they’re subterranean and also quite adept at swimming. This only becomes clearer when we see them in the flesh and their similarities with turtles are obvious – just bigger and badder. They are kind of like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on crack. Even after their unveiling we only see them for a minute or two. I say suspense and mystery be damned, give us more Boogen!

Sadly, this is still not available on DVD. If you want to watch it you’ll have to scour for a VHS or, like I first saw it, catch it on one of Turner Classic Movies’ weirder programs like TCM Underground. I know I’m not alone in wanting a proper release of this with some good behind-the-scenes of creature creation, but I might be holding my breath for a long time. If you do come across a copy it’s a fun and interesting monster movie that tells a great tale.

Until next week – who wants killer turtle soup?

Body Count: 7, 1 dog and around 30 or more in a pile of bones underground
First Death: 16:33
First Glimpse at Boogen: 21:50
First Full Look at Boogen: 1:23:48
Number of Mining Related Puns: Only 1, surprisingly

Coming soon to Horror Movie Night (Chronicles are posted one week after screening):
-8/31/11: Killer Party (1986)
-9/7/11: The Kindred (1987)
-9/14/11: Flesh Eating Mothers (1988)
-9/21/11: Possible BYE Week – Stay Tuned!

Ouch

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