Boogeyman

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Almost no imagination was used in the making of “Boogeyman,” a thriller that is so generic it can only be dispensed if your doctor checked the “generic OK” box on the prescription. It borrows from other lame thrillers like “They” and “Darkness Falls,” without capturing even the low level of suspense that those bad movies managed.

Because there is always a prologue in these movies, this one has a prologue set 15 years ago, when young Timmy is horrified to see his father whisked away by the Boogeyman who lives in his (Timmy’s) closet. This comes just after Timmy’s dad opens the closet, pokes around, then announces there is nothing to be afraid of — famous last words if I’ve ever heard them.

In the present, Timmy (now played by Barry Watson) still believes Dad was devoured by the Boogeyman, while everyone else thinks he just left. You know, went to the store for a pack of cigarettes and never came back, that sort of thing. The incident, real or imagined, scarred Tim very badly, though, and now he is afraid of … doors. Yes, doors. Probably more specifically of the Boogeyman who might pop out from behind a door, but definitely afraid of doors, too. He has a glass door on his refrigerator so he can see what’s behind it, and all the doors from his kitchen cabinets are gone altogether. He probably did not see the Val Kilmer movie “The Doors,” and he probably thinks “Monsters Inc.” uses inappropriate humor to gloss over the real problem of monsters who live in closets.

At any rate, Tim now has a wealthy girlfriend named Jessica (Tory Mussett) whose family’s house has, like, a thousand doors. Don’t worry, though: The movie quickly forgets Jessica and her family and their many-doored house ever existed, although Jessica does briefly show up later in the film just so she can disappear again.

Tim is advised by a psychiatrist who clearly couldn’t care less about him to go spend a night alone in his childhood home as a means of curing himself of his door- and Boogeymanphobia. The house in question, I need hardly tell you, is dilapidated, Gothic, and isolated from all other houses, and the nights there are often both dark and stormy.

While there, whom should Tim see riding past on a horse but his childhood girlfriend Kate (Emily Deschanel). They reunite briefly, but then the movie realizes it has no use for her and sort of pushes her aside. “Dang!” says the movie. “Why did we even come up with her in the first place? We already had one female character we didn’t know what to do with. What were we THINKING?”

Then, while still sort of spending the night in the house but also leaving the house quite a bit, Tim meets a little girl named Franny (Skye McCole Bartusiak), who is creepy and who collects “MISSING” posters of lost children. Franny tells Tim that in order to defeat the Boogeyman, he has to go back to where it all began, which is his bedroom. What about all the kids who were afraid of the Boogeyman before Tim was even born? I guess they were just being crybabies, because the Boogeyman didn’t really BEGIN until Tim’s bedroom.

The film tries our patience by not finding a through-line to follow. It’s slow-moving and unfocused, drifting from one tangent to another, first with Tim’s girlfriend, then with a children’s psychiatric hospital he spent some time in, then with Franny, then with a man Tim knows whose daughter was taken.

I note also a three-minute sequence in which Tim is driving and a crow smashes into his windshield. I get the whole “crow=death” symbolism, but does that need to be drawn out for an entire scene? (Answer: no.)

Furthermore, while most films of this genre have some lore in them — some explanation of where the monster came from and how to kill it — “Boogeyman” has none. Tim’s goal is therefore frustratingly vague: He must “stop” the Boogeyman. But how? He has no idea, and the improvised method he comes up with is starkly unsatisfying.

There aren’t many “rules,” either. This Boogeyman can emerge from closets and from under beds, like you’d expect, but also through ceiling tiles and bathtubs. And it doesn’t have to be nighttime, either. And sometimes he takes grownups instead of children. Many of these acts are violations of the Geneva Convention, I am sure.

Director Stephen T. Kay (of the 2000 “Get Carter” remake) favors ominous sound effects as a way of keeping us on the edges of our seats, rather than, you know, actual scary stuff. The film is more intense than frightening, and it is occasionally very intense. But it’s mostly just a thick, soupy movie with no ambition and no plans. It’s the worst thing to come out of the closet since Richard Simmons.

D (1 hr., 26 min.; PG-13, mild violence, lots of scary stuff.)

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