Color, 1980, 82 mins. 9 secs.
Directed by Ulli Lommel
Starring Suzanna Love, John Carradine, Ron James, Nicholas Love, Raymond Boyden, Felicite Morgan
Vinegar Syndrome (UHD & Blu-ray) (US 4K/HD) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9), 88 Films (Blu-ray) (UK R0 HD), CMV Laservision (Blu-ray & DVD) (Germany R0 HD/DVD), Sony (DVD) (US R1 NTSC), Another World (DVD) (Denmark R0 PAL), Anchor Bay (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)
After small oddities like Cocaine Cowboys and upon his relocation to America, director and former Fassbinder actor Ulli Lommel took an eccentric but very successful stab at the new slasher craze with The Boogeyman in 1980 (or The Boogey Man as it's called in the main titles). A fun little drive-in favorite, the film gleefully mixes elements from Halloween, The Exorcist, The Amityville Horror, and Carrie, among many others, into a gruesome bit of occasionally hysterical horror mayhem.
Lommel's onetime wife, Suzanna Love, stars as a young woman, Lacey, haunted by a childhood trauma in which her young brother, Willy (Love's real-life brother, Nicholas), stabbed their mother and her abusive, stocking-masked lover to death. The siblings return to the traumatic scene at a remote farm, where a mirror in which the carnage was reflected has become possessed by the lover's spirit and is wreaking some nasty havoc across the community. The outrageous murder sequences begin to pile up as the malevolent mirror and the driving force behind it conspire to execute a spectacular attack on the family and anyone in their orbit.
Lommel obviously doesn't take the proceedings too seriously with some of the killings bordering on flat-out slapstick, and he doses it all in heavy red and blue lighting a la John Carpenter and Dario Argento to give the film a dreamy, atmosphere boosted by an effective synthesizer score by Tim Krog (originally billed as the collective "Synthe•Sound•Trax"). Old VHS editions of The Boogeyman have been around since the dawn of video, beginning with a fuzzy-looking print from Wizard Video (who distributed quite a few Jerry Gross titles like this) and an improved full-screen edition later on in the '90s from Magnum (also released on laserdisc via Image Entertainment). The open matte transfers early on gave the film a made-for-TV appearance that really worked against its more ambitious intentions, and the first DVD from Anchor Bay (matted to 1.78:1) in 1999 went some way to correcting that problem. The goofiest turn in the film's home video history came in 2005 when Lommel threatened Sony with legal action over its theatrical film Boogeyman, claiming he had a right to the title (never mind that Stephen King and many others got there first). To appease him the studio issued his film on DVD and VHS (billed as "The Original 1980 Version!") paired up with the wretched Return of the Boogeyman, and Lommel parlayed the exposure into a string of mid-'00s true crime-inspired cheapies released by semi-majors like Lionsgate.
The first Blu-ray of The Boogeyman eventually arrived in 2012 from German label CMV Laservision featuring an excellent HD transfer with English and German-dubbed audio options (DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono) along with a German-language audio commentary by Lommel that hasn't appeared in any other country to date. Also included was a 17m42s video interview with the director (in English), the U.S. and German trailers, two TV spots, and a gallery. In 2015, 88 Films issued a now discontinued Blu-ray in the U.K. (as part of its Slasher Collection along with Lommel's The Devonsville Terror and Olivia), taken from the same scan and featuring the Lommel interview, the trailer two TV spots, and an insert booklet with a text interview between Love and Calum Waddell.
In 2023, Vinegar Syndrome issued the film in a dual-format 4K UHD and Blu-ray edition with a substantial slate of new extras. The new scan from the 35mm original camera negative looks great, improving on the already excellent Blu-rays with deeper and more consistent black levels and slightly adjusting the framing to the theatrically accurate 1.85:1 with additional image info on the sides (and losing nothing vertically). The UHD in particular looks spectacular with HDR bringing out a spectrum in the color scheme that looks downright psychedelic at times, and detail throughout is impressive while maintaining the fine film grain of the source. The DTS-HD MA English 2.0 mono track (with optional English SDH subtitles) is also in excellent condition. A new audio commentary with editor Terrell Tannen in conversation with Brad Henderson goes through the production in detail including the somewhat piecemeal construction of the story over time (only Lommel seemed to have the whole picture in his head by the time it shot) as well as the process of cutting it all together in California where he reluctantly traveled to work and ended up finding a successful career. A second commentary by Kat Ellinger runs through the quirks of European slasher movies from the '80s, the out-there nature of this film in particular, the qualities she feels have been lost in modern genre criticism, and connected titles like Candyman and The Perfume of the Lady in Black. "Scenes from a Marriage" (38m57s) is a very candid new interview with Love talking about her relationship with the director, her cooperative nature that made her an asset for what she feels are Lommel's best American films, her acting background before taking on her most famous roles, and some pretty crazy drug-related stories, too. In "Boogey Man, and So On" (33m59s), cinematographer and co-writer David Sperling about his work on the film (doing all the primary shooting before some reshoots took place), his roundabout writing credit, the ideas he brought to the film, the punk scene that brought him and Lommel together, and the convoluted evolution of the concept. "Pick-Up Girl" (8m21s) is a new interview with actress Catherine Tambini about her acting background at NYU, her move to L.A., the story behind her one "red herring" scene in a barn on this film, and her subsequent work behind the scenes on some big Hollywood productions. In "Cuts from the Mirror" (20m38s), Tannen goes into his background starting in Washington D.C. and gives more background that wasn't covered in his commentary including the shoot in Maryland and the subsequent editing in L.A. Finally in "Boogey Man as Art" (15m1s), camera operator Jürg V. Walther recalls his early days in L.A.'s music scene, his thrill at working on 35mm with this film, and the "ethereal excitement" about the process of making the film. The archival 18-minute Lommel interview is also included, plus the trailer and two TV spots.
VINEGAR SYNDROME (Blu-ray)
88 FILMS (Blu-ray)
Updated review on August 2, 2023.