Troll Play

In the matter of splatter, whether the perp be human or not, genre fans are hard-pressed to find a more engagingly daffy title than 1981’s THE BOOGENS, now on Blu-ray from Olive Films/Paramount Home Entertainment.

And by title, I mean just that. Regardless of the moniker’s explanation, or some of the horrific goings-on that permeate the lion’s share of the pic’s 96-minute running time, even chronic scaredy-cats cannot help but chortle at the mere mention of this gory epic’s handle. Let’s face it, who isn’t going to think The Boogers? And the consequences of such an abomination are worse:  slimy, crawling crusty balls of Satan-spawned sleazy-sneezies blobbing their way toward a new (and likely nubile) victim. Even to many of the show’s ever-growing buffs, it’s affectionately referred to as The Boogers – creatures to be fought not with holy cross or assault weapon firepower, but a super-steroid version of Mucinex.

Truth be told, this couldn’t be further from the actual facts. I dare say, THE BOOGENS is indeed a modestly tense little item that is remarkably potent, and done, for the most part, without tongue in cheek.

As for the Boogens themselves, they are unfortunate monstrosities (not to be confused with fortunate monstrosities) who, ages ago, were trapped in the mining equivalent of the Triangle Shirtwaist inferno. Unlike those vics, these poor denizens of Silver City, Colorado didn’t perish, but remained trapped beneath the surface of the disaster, caused by corrupt 1%-ers who had taken over the local unions. They are the Yank counterparts of those urban legend bad-teethed Brits who survived a similar mishap during the construction of the London underground. Since they had to eat, they resorted to cannibalism; since they had what Cole Porter deftly termed “the urge to merge,” they grabbed whatever non-human female critters happened on by. From that point it was a closed society of inbreeding/feeding, all the while digging a labyrinth of internal tunnels and passageways (some directly below stately, off the beaten track homes that dot the sparse, rural community). Boogens are fast, turtle-like bastards – comprised of varying levels of sharp teeth and gnarly paws, the latter adept at grabbing the hell out of who/whatever gets in their way. There’s really nothing complimentary about them, including, presumably, their hygiene.  Nevertheless when not gnawing the flesh off pissed-off fleeing organisms, they oft resemble a Mike Myers Special Edition of a Cabbage Patch Gremlin.

So why are they on the attack now? Big business is doing new construction work on the mine and two bussed-in diggers are on the project team. Like their lower common denominator devolved beasties, they, too, crave pootie tang. To this goal, one (Jeff Harlan) has invited his girlfriend (Anne-Marie Martin) who, in turn, has invited her babealicious pal (Rebecca Balding). Object: blind datery.  Martin has also brought her annoying canine along, an unbeknownst perk for the Boogens, as they are particularly partial to oodles of poodles. Ultimately, this bill of fare proves to be an epicurean win-and-a-half preamble, since Boogens’s prime salivate-friendly preference is big-breasted 1980s actresses with bad hair and worse clothes.

The hottie landlady (Marcia Reider) who rents them lodging, apparently designed by the same creep who decorated the Bates Motel, is soon gobbled up herself.  Curiously, her disappearance isn’t thought to be that much of a distraction.  Frankly, during that period, I can think of no worse fate for an American woman – save perhaps being cast on Three’s Company.

In fine 1970s-80s horror movie style, Balding, the demure, shy blind date, instantly gets naked (in a tub, that is), and seemingly immediately becomes McCarren’s new GF.  Romance, however, is put on temporary hold when Harlan is called upon to make an emergency run to the big city (and for tiny Silver City that could mean Crabwell Corners). Naturally, as he revs up the transport in the garage, the floorboards creak, the scurrying sound of tapping claws is heard and, presto, you’ve got Chef Boy R D-licious.

With McCarren/Balding engaged in treacly tavern-imbibing, pool-hustling breaking-the-ice repartee, the sole foreboding manse occupant is now Martin, who literally proves to be so cute that you can just eat her up.

A cranky old John Huston-looking mofo (Jon Lormer) turns up warning the construction workers of the Boogen curse, but, obviously having never studied the Reprobate Horror Flick Geezers Guidebook (aka, John Carradine 101), ends up as a side of pickled herring himself.

A taut climax in the Getdafuckouttathere Mine is arguably thrillin’ an’ chillin’ as the last remaining cast members do their damndest to keep off the menu.

THE BOOGENS isn’t really as cheezy as I’m making it out to be. If you enjoy these kinds of movies, it’s admittedly quite a lot of fun. And, while done on a shoestring-plus, is genuinely well-made. The special effects are wisely held in check, so that huggable Boogens pans are rarely shown in good light; on the other talon, their carnage is gross enough to be classified as borderline retching.  The direction by James L. Conway is tight (with an homage to Jack Arnold-type vintage 1950s shocks) and the camerawork by Paul Hipp (in nifty 1.85:1 widescreen) atmospheric and eerie. Of course, this is immensely helped by the wintry bleak (yet awesome), desolate snowed-in Colorado and Utah locations that are frequently Shining-esque (thus, no accident that Stephen King is an admirer of this movie). The script by David O’Malley and Bob Hunt (story by O’Malley and Tom Chapman) is admirably free of cornball cutesy Spielbergian banter that infected the youth market back then (and, sadly, still does so except now on a grander, more revolting scale). There’s also a decent score by composer Bob Summers that often contains a nice John Barry vibe. The small cast is likewise extremely effective, never too cloying to make you (totally) root for the Boogens (although smarmy McCarren reminds me way too much of Joe Scarborough to give up any sympathy). The goils are swell and (no pun) have the lungpower to let out with some commendable prerequisite screaming. That said, Squeezie, or whatever the pooch (or pooches, two were used) was named, ends up giving the best performance in the picture.

The Olive Films transfer of THE BOOGENS is A-plus. I can’t imagine the movie ever looking (or sounding) as good, even in the original 1981 release. And for those can’t get enough BOOGENS boogeying, there’s a running audio commentary by cowriter O’Malley, director Conway and star Balding.  Bone appetit!

THE BOOGENS.  Color.  Widescreen [2.35:1; 1080p High Definition]; DTS-HD MA.  Olive Films/Paramount Home Entertainment.  CAT # OF458.  SRP:  $29.95.

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