There really is only one word to describe Luke Jaden’s (Dark, Deadly & Dreadful) 2019 movie Boo! and that word would be boo.
Boooooooooo. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.
This is not a good film. In fact a charitable and fairly accurate description might be “Baby’s First Horror Movie” as Boo! is simply not scary. The single good jumpscare that it has is wasted as they show it in the trailer, putting it on a par with The Prodigy, as another film that wasted the one good scare it had. In Boo!‘s instance, however, that might well be because it has no other decent scares to share.
It’s time to put the boot into Boo!, and before we continue it needs to be made clear that this film will not be referring to the 2005 film called Boo, nor the 2014 film called Boo, nor even either of the Boo! A Madea Halloween films, or the 2003 BBC TV series which was, you guessed it, called Boo. Seriously. Talk about generic titles.
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Boo! starts off badly when the opening sequence brings up immediate comparisons to 2017’s execrable The Bye Bye Man. Jumping forward the main characters are introduced – James, the fire and brimstone, God’s wrath preaching father. Elyse, the alcoholic mother. Caleb, their troubled son, and Morgan, their equally troubled daughter. Little time is given to establishing the characters, or really fleshing them out in any meaningful way, before the family are “Boo’ed”: a letter on their doorstep warning them that they must pass the “Boo” along to someone else or else they will bring the wrath of ghosts down on themselves. Believing it to be nothing more than a Halloween prank and ignoring the warnings of his son, James burns the letter and sets off a chain of events that will eventually lead to tragedy.
There are three big problems with this film. The first is that the characters are little more than ciphers, with no real details given to them. Caleb appears to be a deeply troubled boy, yet the fact his windows are papered over and his walls covered in disturbing imagery of blood, fire and death is never once mentioned by any character. Morgan has quite obviously attempted suicide at least once before, and Elyse is a functioning alcoholic, yet none of this is addressed, nothing seems to have any real repercussions or emotional weight, no attempt is made to allow the audience to understand or relate to the characters so when terrible things eventually befall them… why should the audience care?
This brings us to the second problem: the editing. Scenes lack any real tension or atmosphere; not helped by some odd choices of music. The first appearance of something truly supernatural is accompanied by a jarringly loud piece of music that would sound far more at home in a 1980’s nightclub, not a scene where a director might be trying to build tension. There is also no real sense of continuity or transition between scenes, which is especially egregious near the end of the film where each character is facing their own individual torment.
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But the biggest problem is that Boo! simply isn’t scary. As mentioned before there’s little tension, the film’s only decent scare ruined by the trailer. Even the characters barely react to the events going on around them. Caleb, for instance, witnesses something that would have most people requiring a change of underwear, yet he arrives downstairs to give his family the “I told you so” speech in the same way that most people might discuss the weather. This is compounded by the nature of the threat. No explanation is given as to the nature of the Boo, who put it on their doorstep, or why, or where it came from in the first place; everything is left unexplained and while that ambiguity worked for stories like It Follows it simply falls flat here.
As a horror film, Boo! fails to be scary. As a family drama, Boo! fails to show relationships within the family except in the most superficial ways. As a story, Boo! fails to make the audience interested in the fates of the main characters. Say boo to Boo! and watch something else.
Boo! is available now on digital download.