B-HIT OR B-SHIT: The Boogens (1981)
by – The Viking Lord
Directed by James L Conway on a budget of a mere $600,000, this lesser known American monster movie from the early 80’s horror boom involves the reopening of a Utah silver mine… closed for 70 years after a catastrophic cave-in, the circumstances of which remain one of the nearby town’s most legendary mysteries. When attempts are made to explore the mine shaft, the investigating party never return. The Boogens are vicious, blood-thirsty little dog-sized critters crawling up out of the dark and are now free to seek new prey on the outskirts of town.
I never managed to see this particular horror flick at its original release and took a few years to get hold of a copy on VHS. As it turns out, the movie is so bad that it’s….well, kinda awesome!
It starts off well, introducing four believable main characters and sets up the main plot with the original mine’s closing being shown through newspaper cuttings over the credits. From there though things slow right down as the Boogens claim only one victim in the first 50 minutes, though they do provide a threat to a dog in several scenes! Speaking of ‘The Boogens’, we come to a small issue with the movie – despite getting their name into the title, the creatures are only named once by a crazy old guy who mumbles it during one scene, making it very easy to miss.
Along with never explaining why these creatures are called Boogens, the movie pretty much lacks entirely on filling in any back story at all. We get hints along the way that these creatures caused the mine to close, and we expect that the crazy old guy is going to eventually open up and spill the answers to all the questions. This never happens, so the questions of what the Boogens are, where they came from, and how they survived 70 years closed off in the mine are never answered.
On the plus side, the cast is recognizable, Rebecca Balding (Silent Scream), Fred McCarren (Xanadu), Anne-Marie Martin (Sledge Hammer) and veteran character actors John Crawford (Batman and Mission Impossible TV Shows) and Jon Lormer (Creepshow).
The Boogens themselves are mostly shown through close to ground cinematic shots for the first hour until they are finally revealed in all their animatronic scariness near the finale. It is an effectively designed and nasty looking octopus type thing, though the lack of articulation hinders the chase scenes since the movement is restricted to flailing tentacles and weird dog growling. Luckily those low down view shots can still fill in for the chases. All in all, this one succeeds, it drags a bit in the middle, making it only for hardcore 80’s horror fans in the end.
1981 was an awesome year for horror fans. The quality of the films produced were second to none, including some legendary entries, Halloween II, The Burning, The Prowler, My Bloody Valentine, Friday the 13th Pt 2, The Howling, The Evil Dead, An American Werewolf In London and The Beyond, so it’s no wonder that a low budget monster movie called ‘The Boogens’ became lost in all the silver screen goriness.
This film has since become somewhat of a cult classic due to its rarity.