Look Back in Horror: There is No Escape!

The-Boogens-PosterDon’t worry; this column isn’t going to be about introspective navel-gazing. Okay, maybe a little. But humor me and I’ll humor you. Mainly, we’re going to look at where modern me developed an obsession with things that go bump in the night.

It was January of 1977 and folks in the Hoosier state were stranded indoors because of the blizzard raging outside. On the 22nd, at 5:06pm, I came kicking and screaming into this world and I haven’t shut up since. I’m now 36 and like most people wonder how I get here. Here being all the pieces of the puzzle that make me who I am.

Since discovering NOTLP, I’ve thought of the crew as kindred spirits. They grew up in the Midwest too, just a little over an hour from where I did. I’ve always just assumed that our childhood was shaped by some of the same touchstones and experiences.

My mother would say that the weirdness began in utero. My father wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, so where does he take a queasy pregnant woman out for a date? To the drive-in, of course; where there was a double feature running of Grizzly (1976) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). Is it any wonder the marriage didn’t last?

My earliest horror movie memory is of the TV ad for The Boogens. The family would gather around our RCA television, a big floor model complete with a wooden cabinet, to watch TV in the evenings. I’d plop down on my belly, as close to the TV as I could get without blocking everyone else’s view, and settle in for a night of entertainment. I never missed shows like The Dukes of Hazzard, The Incredible Hulk, or Buck Rogers, but I’d be asleep by the time Johnny Carson came on.

Somewhere in the mix, probably on a night when I was up later than I should be, I saw the ad for The Boogens. It frightened me so badly, that it sent me running from the room. Even the name made these creatures sound like a cousin to the dreaded Boogeyman himself. Here’s the spot that haunted my dreams:

The announcer’s deep voice made sure my four year old self understood that this was some serious shit. In the spot, a lady is dragged, screaming, from the safety of her kitchen to an unknown fate beneath her cellar trap door. The cellar in the ad served as a blank canvas on which to project my childhood fears.

Know what’s funny? I’ve seen hundreds of horror movies, but until preparing to write this blog, I still hadn’t seen The Boogens. I don’t want you to think I’d avoided it as part of some childhood trauma. It’s just because I could never find the damn thing. When I was hunting for the ad, I discovered an old VHS copy that had been uploaded to YouTube. I wondered what adult me would think of this boogeyman that had creeped me out as a child.

That's it? That's what these terrifying critters look like?
That’s what these terrifying critters look like?

I’m sad to say that the above TV spot is scarier than the actual movie. In fact, only the first half of the video is used in the film. The Boogens is a tedious snoozer that takes way too long to get going. Keeping the monsters off-screen for most of the movie was a good choice, but when we finally see these tentacled beasties it’s a letdown. To call them mutant ninja turtles by way of Lovecraft is giving these puppets too much credit.

You'll get yours, Tiger.
You’ll get yours, Tiger.

I knew after all these years, it couldn’t possibly live up to the expectations in my head. Those fears were personalized and had plenty of time to grow roots. However, I’m glad I finally watched it. At the very least, I can say it’s the only movie I’ve ever seen that featured a dog that was such an asshole, I couldn’t wait until the monsters got him. If you ever have the opportunity to see this movie, don’t waste the time. I can’t recommend it to anyone else unless your inner child also needs to escape The Boogens.

 *****

TONY WILSON was born in the vast wasteland of the Midwest. He was raised on a steady diet of classic TV shows, horror comics, video games, and drive-in movies. He knows what year is on the Giant Penny in the Batcave and used to be able to explain THAC0. Hobbies include writing, reading comics, watching everything on Netflix, chainmail, and explaining the jokes on The Big Bang Theory to his wife. He currently lives in Texas with his wife and two crazy dogs. Check out his fiction at: http://www.amazon.com/Tony-Wilson/e/B0057ZXTQU/

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