Directed by Paul Downey.
Starring Dave McRae, Jack Norman, James Secker, Nathan Thomas Milliner, P.J. Starks, Richard Stringham, J. Blake Fichera, Daniel Mark Young, James Morrissey, Chris Johnson, Evan Tapper, Nils Reucker, and James Plumb.
For the Love of the Boogeyman is a retrospective dissection of John Carpenter’s landmark slasher: Halloween. Piecing together testimonials from dedicated fans and independent filmmakers, the documentary explores how the initially unassuming ”exploitation” flick has gradually evolved into a bonafide classic. The short also considers what elevates Halloween above its peers and why it has become such a treasured artefact amongst cinephiles and aspiring directors alike.
Ask any genre enthusiast to break down the success of Halloween and they are all-but-guaranteed to have a full-blown thesis prepared for such an occasion. With notes by their side, they will readily launch into an impassioned sermon; expounding upon the film’s merit as a cinematic milestone and waxing poetic about everything from its economic use of lighting, to its meticulous framing and atmospheric score.
Indeed, there’s no shortage of people lining up to feleate Carpenter’s iconic masterwork. I myself wrote a particularly conceited essay about it at University, despite being unable to formulate a remotely compelling argument. I just ended up reiterating what countless others had already articulated before me and ultimately failed to say anything more insightful than ”that Michael Myers is well creepy!’
Unfortunately, a similar critique can be levelled at For the Love of the Boogeyman, a sycophantic documentary that tellingly markets itself as being made ‘by fans and for the fans”. Translation: ”it’s a fawning circle-jerk, with little-to-no substance and a startling lack of fresh perspective”. So in that sense, it is strikingly reminiscent of my flimsy uni assignment, only much longer and with less uses of the word ”thus”.
You see, there’s no illuminating analysis to speak of here, just people repeating variations on the phrase ”first and last word in genre film-making”. Which would be fine if you were doing a quick review or perhaps a blog post. But there’s not enough meat on those bones to justify a paltry video-essay, never mind a 40 minute project comprised of dozens of interviewees!
What’s worse is that, over the course of the piece, alternate readings are never even hinted at, giving it a very narrow view. This is partly because the talking heads are all interchangeable, with comparable interests and matching opinions. Consequently, they all approach the material from the same, bland position. There’s no contrast to the discussion here. No variety. No back and forth. Just people rabbiting on in circles about how much they love a 40 year-old movie.
Given that none of the presenters actually worked on Halloween, you would think that they’d at least have interesting takes to make their commentary worth listening to. But they don’t! They just offer banal praise of every facet of the film-making, like they’re dutifully ticking off all the Oscar categories or something.
”The acting is great. And the directing is great. And the cinematography is great. And the production design is great. And the music is great. And the best animated film is great!’ If you want to simulate the experience of watching For the Love of the Boogeyman, simply copy and paste that quote about 200 times and you’ll get the picture.
It’s just a surface-level appraisal that only serves to endorse a pre-established consensus. No one needs to be told that Halloween is a fantastic movie, that’s pretty well cemented by now. If that’s all you’ve got to say, then your project has more in common with an episode of Collider Movie Talk than it does with an actual documentary.
Although this shortcoming is disappointing, it isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker. After all, it can be nice to listen to people talk passionately about something they love, even if they don’t have anything especially original to contribute. What severelyhampers Boogeyman however, is the fact that its interviewees deliver near-identical soundbites throughout.
It turns out that they’re not only on the same page as one another, but sometimes the exact same fucking sentence! Every time that someone comments on a specific aspect of the movie- be it Jamie Lee Curtis’ formidable performance, the unknowable presence of The Shape, or the way that synth music acts as a metaphorical voice for Michael Myers- you then have to listen to that same point being repeated ad nauseum by about 20 other people Before long you start to feel like you’re in some kind of hellish echo chamber.
Of course, it’s only natural that people will have similar feelings when talking about one of the greatest horror films ever made. The talking heads aren’t necessarily to blame for that. But if you’re the person putting this documentary together, then it’s your job to weed out such duplications.
Speaking of editing, the rhythm of cutting here is awfully distracting, as we’re constantly jumping around between talking heads without a chance to properly settle. You rarely stay with a single person for longer than 10 seconds, so none of them are afforded the opportunity to meaningfully expand upon their arguments or substantiate them with evidence. Sometimes you can even hear them being cut-short mid-sentence, just so they can be interrupted by someone else. It all adds to the insubstantial feeling that presides over the entire documentary, where everything comes across so slight and bitty.
At least the visuals are okay: cycling through different locations and giving us cool memorabilia to look at (kudos to Paul Stier and Nathan Thomas Milliner for the impressive artwork). It would have been nice to have clips from Halloween to better illustrate points and break up the interviews but if there were legal obstructions preventing this from happening, then the production team obviously can’t be blamed for that.
Over all, For the Love of the Boogeyman’s is a rather simplistic and under-cooked offering. You could argue that it’s intention is not really to pick apart its subject, and that it just wants to celebrate the anniversary of a landmark release. But if that’s the case, then there are far more entertaining ways of doing that.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★