“For The Love of The Boogeyman – 40 Years Of Halloween”
For the Love of The Boogeyman is a short talking heads documentary about John Carpenter’s classic 1978 horror that kick-started the slasher craze, made and released to coincide with the film’s 40th anniversary and the release of its latest instalment. The film is written, directed and produced by Paul Downey, and features commentary from fans and filmmakers from the indie horror scene as they talk about their love for Halloween and its antagonist, Michael Myers.
It’s a well-produced amateur film, bookended by serviceable vignettes that feature a fan-made Michael Myers ‘origin’ tale. The film features no footage from the Halloween franchise (according to the makers, they were denied licensing rights for official imagery by Trancas International Films and threatened with legal action), but it does not suffer for this. The graphics used are stylish and professional, and the production design (by L.J.Greenwood and Kaush Patel) is of a very high standard – each talking head sits before a background of film-related easter eggs and suitably spooky accoutrements. Original content would always trump seeing the same old clips from a film most of us revisit on a certain night of each year.
There are a few minor production concerns, mostly in the audio – the levels vary greatly from setup to setup, with at least one member of the documentary’s cast barely audible and one or two so loud as to startle me in my chair. Other than this, on the whole it is pretty well made and it comes in at a lean 42 minutes in length.
Like all good horror genre talking heads documentaries (the current standard-bearer being Leviathan: The Story of Hellraiser and Hellraiser 2), Boogeyman covers the key aspects of the seminal film: its setting; its cast and performance; the defining aspects of its antagonist and the film’s legacy. However, it is here that the film’s flaws begin to show.
For The Love of The Boogeyman dishes out acceptable fan-service, but gives us no real insight into the original film or what (other than a slew of sequels) gave it such longevity. The content is fine if you want to hear about how John Carpenter managed to not only direct the film but create its iconic score; how Jamie Lee Curtis provided the perfect everygirl performance (that birthed the “final girl” trope) and Donald Pleasance managed to elevate a role essentially written in service of the film’s plot to give key exposition where and when needed; that John Carpenter helped create a subgenre and its tropes and that Halloween stands head and shoulders above the majority of the slasher films that followed it.
But I already know all this.
And not because I’m a superfan (I’m not – I like Carpenter and his films, particularly Assault on Precinct 13, Big Trouble in Little China, The Fog and of course The Thing); not because I have studied the film and its franchise in any depth (I haven’t). I am a fan of the horror genre who recognises the movie and respects its importance, but I have no real Halloween knowledge that the average horror film fan does not. I came to this documentary wanting to learn more, but sadly did not.
The talking heads are, as already discussed, a bunch of (mostly white males – I did find the lack of diversity quite jarring) horror fans and indie filmmakers. Aside from someone involved in Youtube fan film Halloween: Resurgence there is nobody with any real connection to Halloween.
It would have been nice to have heard from one of the lesser cast or crew, or perhaps a film historian who has written extensively on the subject. Cast or crew interviews from across the Atlantic Ocean might be difficult to come by (although I’d wager an old forgotten crew member would love the opportunity to talk about their contribution on a forty year old film), but virtually every university in the UK has a film historian on its faculty who would no doubt be happy to share their own insight on this seminal film for a reasonably small fee. I can also think of a dozen or so genre film writers who are visible on social media who really know their stuff and probably would have been happy to be involved if approached.
I would have loved to have heard more about the film’s influences (there is brief mention that Carpenter was influenced by Howard Hawks and Orson Welles, but it sadly goes no further than that). Analysis of how Halloween used the various tropes established by Hitchcock’s Psycho, Bob Clark’s Black Christmas and the Italian Giallo filone to create an entirely new subgenre would have been welcomed. I would have liked to have learned something, anything, from the documentary, but I did not.
This is what separates serviceable fan documentaries from those that sit atop the pile. To make a successful film of this nature, there needs to be one of two things:
Insight and anecdote, from cast/crew members (as per the aforementioned Leviathan)
A hook, an unusual approach or angle (such as in Room 237, the documentary discussing the various conspiracy theories behind Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece The Shining)
What For The Love of The Boogeyman does deliver is some light-hearted fan service both from and for people who enjoy John Carpenter’s film. I could imagine this sitting well somewhere in the program of a Halloween movie marathon, as an added attraction to play between some of the umpteen Halloween sequels.
The use of original content (the vignettes) was an interesting experiment – had there been more of this, it may have set the film apart from standard Youtube fare.
All in all, a well-made doc that at 42 minutes doesn’t outstay it’s welcome, but could have done with a bit more depth.
***For The Love of The Boogeyman - 40 Years Of Halloween will release to the public Oct 12th online with a possible premiere in the UK in August. Keep an eye out.
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