Not that long ago the video store was a mundane and sometimes obnoxious part of life; driving over to some lonesome strip mall with your friends or family to comb through the all-too-often disorganized shelves of your local shop, argue over a selection, and then be stuck with it, for good or ill. Yet, it was also sublime. And for those who lived during the true video boom, video stores also equate to another bygone commodity: VHS. When JVC’s Video Home System won the early-80’s format war, the motion picture market changed forever. The genre and B-movies that had previously filled drive-ins across the country now often went straight to VHS. Then DVD took the world by storm in the late-90’s. It was a brave new world, and sadly, many films never made the leap, trapped now on a dead format. These often aren’t “good” films, but goddammit, they were what made video stores great. For we here at CHUD are the kind of people who tended to skip over the main stream titles, our eyes settling on some bizarre, tantalizing cover for a film we’d never even heard of, entranced. These films are what VHS was all about.
Some people are still keeping the VHS flame burning. People like me, whose Facebook page Collecting VHS is a showcase for the lost charms of VHS box artwork. With this column it is my intention to highlight these “lost” films and the only rule I have for myself is that they cannot be available on DVD.
Title: The Boogens
Genre: Slimy Monster Movie
Tagline: After 100 years they have reawakened…
Released by: Republic Pictures
Director: James L. Conway
Plot: All hell breaks loose in a small Colorado town when a long-abandoned silver mine is re-opened and inadvertently releases a swarm of slimy little creatures with razor sharp teeth upon the local residents. Two young couples renting a nearby home learn the painful truth as the ‘boogens’ strike again and again.
Thoughts: One genre that is sorely missing from the local multiplexes these days is the good old-fashioned monster movie. There’s something about the basic simplicity of these films that always thrilled me as a kid. It was an age when prosthetic effects ruled and all you needed was a nasty looking monster(s), a location, and a group of young, preferably good-looking actors to be terrorized by whatever beastie the special effects department could come up with. The horror section of your local video shop and late night cable television was where you could find most of these low budget shockers, with titles like The Kindred, The Outing, Humanoids From The Deep, Cellar Dweller, It Came Without Warning, Parasite, and this week’s review, The Boogens.
The film begins with two young men that are helping two older engineers check out this abandoned silver mine in Silver City, Colorado. They use dynamite to blow up a caved-in section and inadvertently release a nest of subterranean creatures, called ‘boogens’, which proceed to venture forth into the many cave passages that are for some inexplicable reason connected to all the homes of the local residents. The guys are a little distracted because their girlfriends have just arrived for a weekend of wild sex in the old house they rented, which of course has a loosely boarded passageway for the mine located directly in the basement.
There’s an old homeless guy spying on everything who seems to know what’s going on, but unfortunately he keeps it all to himself for the majority of the film, which is long enough for a whole lot of the town folk to get ripped apart by the mostly unseen ‘boogens’. You get a flash here and there of a tentacle with a sharp talon sticking out of it, which slices up people’s faces like a Benihana cook, but that’s about it until the finale.
I think there’s supposed to be a whole swarm of ‘boogens’ in this movie, but we only really see one of them, which is probably due to budgetary restrictions. When we finally lay eyes on one, it looks like a slimy turtle with a face like a Muppet on PCP. It’s pretty lame by today’s standards, but the filmmakers wisely save it for the very end and shoot it in low light. There is one truly great scare, where a ‘boogen’ plays dead and a curious cop gets his face bitten off by the ugly mutant tortoise, that looks pretty awesome!
This movie has a lot of charm to it. According to the box, Stephen King is a huge fan. I saw it once a long time ago on late night HBO when I was a kid and I remember loving it. Watching it now, I can still say that I really love it, but not because it’s great, or even very good, but just because it’s fun. There is no pretentiousness here at all, making it a perfect little time capsule of this style of exploitation from the early eighties. What can I say? Sometimes all it takes to satisfy me is a gooey monster puppet, cool gore, nice suspense and some brief nudity. It’s like comfort food for the brain.