Saturday, 19 January 2019

THE BOOGEY MAN

MINOR SPOILERS, FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH (FOURPENCE)

So: rather than continue my 2018 policy of seeing as many films as possible, no matter what, no matter how blatantly terrible they may be, no matter who's playing Charlie Chan, this year I'm changing tack. Fewer first-watch movies, and instead I'm going back over some of the titles I watched over thirty years ago on VHS. Knackered rental tapes cropped to 4:3, lo-def picture and sound quality, BBFC scissor marks left and right...it really wasn't the best way to watch a movie but it was all we had. Now, many of those classics, cult titles, video nasties and unwatchable obscurities have been dug out of the landfill, restored, remastered and ripe for re-evaluation. Were they really so terrible?

I see from my 30-year database that Ulli Lommel's The Boogey Man, also watched at some point in the late eighties on battered, twisted tape, was apparently a two-star movie, and I can correct that immediately. By knocking one of those stars off. It's utter rubbish, uninterestingly done and, while not as boring, insulting or incompetent as the Ray Dennis Stecklers and Al Adamsons of this world, has nothing to commend it beyond the debatable cachet of Nastyhood (the 44 seconds of cuts have now been waived) and a two-scene John Carradine cameo that must have taken anything up to half the morning to shoot. It's actually a very dull haunted mirror movie in which the spirit of a murder victim is released when the mirror he died in front of is shattered, and he can now kill at will through telekinetic powers. Not content with targeting the extended family of the child who killed him twenty years ago (the child saw him having sex with Mommy), he's now engineering the demise of the people who now live in his old house and some boring teens partying on the other side of the lake for no immediately obvious reason....

None of it makes any sense, as The Boogey Man (variously named The Bogey Man and The Bogeyman, allegedly because audiences might confuse Boogey with Boogie) has that same passing acquaintance with the real world that Lucio Fulci's more wayward zombie movies do. Why can't he come out of a complete mirror, only inch-long fragments? How is the kid keeping his foot so still for so long, so the sunlight can be reflected so precisely on a spot more than half a mile away? And why? Can he possess other people? Why does the film set up the original killer as a potential threat (collecting knives, half-strangling young women) when the horror is actually supernatural? Matters aren't helped by the unlistenable synth score, poor acting, lack of visual style, the it's-not-really-over ending that must surely have been old hat even then....

Nothing to do with the Sam Raimi-produced Boogeyman series, and nothing to do with a halfway decent use of a Thursday evening, this is desperately weak all round, and even the artlessly staged death scenes don't have any impact. And we've been burned enough times already by the Video Nasty tag: sometimes they're genuinely nasty, more often they're maybe a bit iffy, but usually they're just cloddingly dull, incompetent, stupid and naff. The Boogey Man falls so easily into the third category it doesn't touch the sides. It spawned a sequel which is also terrible, and which was later re-issued in a director's cut that was also terrible. Second star duly knocked off.

*

Friday, 11 January 2019

LEONARD PART 6

SPOILERS EPISODE 53

One of the reasons I've never been a fan of boycotting movies because star X is, might be, or has subsequently been revealed as, a colossal pervert, sexual predator and/or all-round piece of human garbage is that you're also boycotting the work of a whole load of other people who aren't. It's all very well to ignore the films of Woody Allen or Roman Polanski on the grounds of accusations, rumours or even established fact, but it means you "punish" their entirely blameless casts and crews who have nothing to do with star X's alleged or historical actions. In this instance star X is Bill Cosby, one of the most powerful and most popular TV stars of his day, trying and failing (and boy, is he failing) to move up to the big screen.

Leonard Part 6 most likely bombed not because of its star's depravities (they weren't public knowledge in 1987) but because it's an incoherent, idiotic mess: a dumb spy comedy, a dumb romantic drama, a dumb series of dumb sitcom ideas, randomly thrown together whether they belong or not, whether they work or not. Cosby is Leonard, a retired superspy called back into the field when agents are apparently being bumped off by animals under the control of a mad vegetarian looking to flood the San Francisco Bay Area with chemicals that will turn all the wildlife into killers. Initially he doesn't want to get involved: he's staggeringly rich, he owns a snooty restaurant, and he can't get over his wife leaving him. But he gets pulled back anyway, aided by his loyal butler (Tom Courtenay) and a strange Czech woman who lives in a bus and doesn't speak English (because comedy)....

In the middle of all this is a sitcom subplot in which Leonard's nubile young daughter wants to marry the 66-year-old director of a rubbish play in which she takes her clothes off, while Leonard wants to get back with his beloved but unforgiving wife. Like Schwarzenegger's True Lies, the more interesting spy stuff stops dead for the personal drama. The difference is that when it gets back to the exciting stuff, True Lies more than delivers the action. The final reels of Leonard Part 6 (the first five Leonard films were suppressed in the name of national security, hahaha) include most of the cast being drenched in coloured gloop and Cosby defeating the villain's henchmen by throwing hamburgers at them (and force-feeding one a raw sausage) before riding an ostrich off the roof.

Leonard Part 6 does have a score by the legendary Elmer Bernstein, and it's pretty much the worst film he was ever involved with (okay, 50s sci-fi turkey Robot Monster is arguably worse, but he was blacklisted at the time). It's absolute rubbish, obviously, and it never hangs together for a moment. It feels like an idea that might have served for one of those old Matt Helm or Our Man Flint movies (or any Eurospy nonsense conceived at the height of the Bond rip-off frenzy) but it doesn't have a fraction of the glamour or the excitement or the wit or the grace or the style. Instead it just throws one random Mad Libs idea on the screen after another - wouldn't it be hilarious to have Bill Cosby fight avant-garde dancers with the power of ballet shoes? Wouldn't it be hilarious to have his wife pour soup in his hair? Wouldn't it be hilarious to have an army of frogs throw someone's car into the river? - as if the idea is enough, and it's certainly not the screenwriter's job to develop these ideas in any way or to link them together in some kind of coherent narrative. The result is a clumpingly stupid vanity film that doesn't make any sense at all, isn't funny in the slightest, wastes time and talent wandering aimlessly from one comedy cul-de-sac to another, going nowhere interesting in the process. Utterly terrible, even for ghoulish fans of repulsive perverts.

*

Sunday, 6 January 2019

HOLMES & WATSON

CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS

On the one hand I'm swearing off obviously terrible films, but on the other I can't resist a Sherlock Holmes movie, even one that's clearly not of the top rank. Even one with Will Ferrell in the lead role. It's hardly a major journalistic scoop to reveal breathlessly that Holmes & Watson is terrible, that Ferrell is terrible and that neither the film nor the star are anywhere near funny enough for even a lunkheaded 90-minute throwaway Christmas release that everyone's too bloated, hungover or exhausted to be bothered with. What is odd is that away from the insufferable star turn there are odd isolated little crumbs of not-entirely-terribleness if you're prepared to look harder than the film really deserves.

It's the usual Baker Street set-up, except that Ferrell's Holmes is an egotistical idiot who mangles vowels and consonants alike with an atrocious (though presumably comedic) British accent, while Reilly's Watson is a dunderheaded cretin that makes Nigel Bruce's bumbling old buffoon look like the smart guy he's supposed to be (he's a long-serving Army doctor and published writer, for goodness' sake). Mrs Hudson, meanwhile, is an insatiable Scottish nymphomaniac forever at it with famous figures of history (Einstein, Houdini, Mark Twain) because...I don't know, jokes? Meanwhile Ralph Fiennes doesn't get the chance to do very much with what should be the plum role of Moriarty: the villainy is mostly in other hands.

There are numerous problems with Holmes & Watson. Firstly it's clearly pastiching the Guy Ritchie versions, right down to Mark Mothersbaugh's score, which is odd since the last one was a full seven years ago and there's no sign of a Part 3. Secondly, the plot, in which Moriarty intends to assassinate Queen Victoria on the Titanic (don't even ask) and thus destroy Holmes' reputation unless the great detective and his wannabe co-detective can follow the clues and stop him, would have certainly sufficed for a straight Holmes movie with a straight actor. And thirdly, and most crucially, it's just not funny, even by the standards of such Ferrell back catalogue numbers as Talladega Nights (Ferrell outfunnied by Sacha Baron Cohen, of all people, doing camp Frenchman from a 70s sitcom) and the Anchorman movies (period detail aside there's very little comedic meat; Harrison Ford, of all people, has the only decent line in Anchorman 2).

Sure, there are some moments, but they're nothing to do with the star turn: I liked the tabloid newspaper headlines that flit across the screen every so often, the inclusion of Musgrave should please Holmesians, and there are a couple of unbilled cameos from familiar British faces (one of which nicely parallels Guy Ritchie's casting of Stephen Fry as Mycroft in A Game Of Shadows). But it's nowhere near anything like close to enough. It's actually a tough call as to whether it's more or less funny than the legendarily terrible Peter Cook grotesquerie of The Hound Of The Baskervilles.

**