The Return of the Depressed

I had forgotten there was a film called THE BOOGEYMAN made by Ulli Lommel but a recent project brought it to mind. And quite recently we had watched THE TENDERNESS OF WOLVES and thought it very poor, so hey! Let’s pop it in the Panasonic and say rude things.

I thought the fact that TTOW couldn’t even decide what period it was meant to be set in was a sign that Ulli was an idiot, but now I was hearing that his movies fit into the delirious late-seventies/early-eighties batshit horror cycle of non-Cartesian, as Argento would say, thrillers. Maybe he was an eccentric genius masquerading as an idiot in order to move among his people? We had to find out. The critic’s job, as I see it, is to wilfully misinterpret obvious deficits as cunning flourishes, and I don’t intend to be outdone on that score.

Audacious: the movie begins with thirty seconds of blank screen with Carpenteresque electro-burblings. And then there’s a gel-tinted riff on HALLOWEEN with a kitchen-knife-wielding sprog. But it mixes things up, it’s not a straight rip-off. Where Carpenter has a POV shot that doesn’t make much sense — little Michael keeps looking up at his own hand while he’s raising it to stab — this one has a weird tracking shot in which the lad with the dagger seems curiously tall, and on wheels, and is holding his knife in front of him in a strange way. Serve him right if he tripped and did himself a mischief.

I don’t exactly award bonus points for the scenes of child bondage, but it does suggest a filmmaker who’s not scared of being offensive and horrible.

The film jumps ahead and the two kids (yeah there’s another one) have grown up and one of them is Suzanna Love, Mrs Lommel and the film’s co-writer. Lommel gets extra points by just casually showing another small kid playing on the brim of a well like a fool. Throwaway nervousness.

Lommel has seen HALLOWEEN and THE EXORCIST and some Argento but also, it seems, OF MICE AND MEN — the hulking mute barnstrangles a slattern. The movie moves in lurches, slow and then jumping forward. Here’s John Carradine! As a reassuring shrink. And quite an understated perf, by his barnstorming standards. He could dial it down if you asked him.

Eyebags you could transport mice in.

It’s kind of nice that Love’s character is seemingly crazy but everyone else is far more nuts. Her husband is awful. She freaks out and smashes a mirror after seeing the film’s first victim in it (stocking-masked child-binder) and her man meticulously reconstructs the shards just to be a dick.

But it’s too late — breaking the mirror unleashes everything the mirror has seen! Which inevitably leads to people being killed by their own windows and bathroom cabinets. None of which is scary but some of which is icky or at least surprising. “Boogeyman!” shouts little Timmy, for no reason, before the window descends on his scrawny neck like a guillotine blade.

As far as cheap FX go, I dig the shard of glass glowing red on the carpet, and the levitating pitchfork which rises through frame (held by a crewmember below frame then passed to another above frame). And Ulli is an adherent of the put-scary-music-on-everything school, which is surprisingly effective. Music by Tim Krog (sole credits: this and BOOGEY MAN II. Is Tim is an Ulli preudonym?).

End credits say “Written, produced and directed by Ulli Lommel” but then “Screenplay by Ulli Lommel, David Herschel & Suzanna Love” which is confusing. And maybe a little boastful.

Well, I’m happy I saw it. Love is an interesting presence, un-starry and naturalistic. But I think if you’re going to make an irrational weirdie, you need to have more genuinely startling incidents — since logic does not constrain you, there’s no excuse not to go really nutzoid. TBM only gets partway.

8 Responses to “The Return of the Depressed”

  1. David Ehrenstein Says:

    As I trust you know Ulli or for Fassbinder, starring in “Love is Colder Than Death” and several of his other early RWF items. As an actor he was quite OK. He moved to the U.S. and after “The Bogeyman” has made a series of straight-to-video “torture porn” flicks of no distinction whatsoever.

  2. Lommel’s true crime movies are distinguished, if that word can be applied to them, by a rigorous disregard of any and all facts in the cases “examined.” Even when the facts are very well-known. So I suppose he’s being true to form.

    Per the IMDb, he died in 2017, but has since made several films, including another Boogeyman sequel (Boogeyman II is reportedly a rehash consisting mainly of flashbacks to the first film).

  3. Tony Williams Says:

    I saw both BOOGEYMAN films for HEARTHS OF DARKNESS and applaud your comment about the critic’s job being to “Willfully misinterpret obvious defects as cunning flourishes” . As for “rude things” I will remain “diplomatically silent on that point.

  4. David Ehrenstein Says:

    Vincent Canby seems to have liked “Tenderness of Wolves:””It is beautifully and enthusiastically performed and it doesn’t contain a single superfluous or redundant camera movement. Like Mr. Fassbinder’s own early films, ‘Tenderness of the Wolves’ is cryptic, tough-talking and swaggering in the manner of someone who means to shock his elders. Like the early Warhol work, “Tenderness of the Wolves” seems to be sending up everyone and everything, but, unlike the Warhol movies, it takes filmmaking—the possibilities of the discipline—with complete seriousness.”

    Chaque a son GOO.

    If Lommel did indeed make films post-mortem this would line him up with Jean-Naiel Pollet — a fine filmmaker alive or deead

  5. I have never seen a review that addressed one of the more striking aspects of Tenderness, its seemingly being set both pre and post WWII. I’m not sure what the goal of that was, but Lommel’s later serial killer films had, it seems, a similar disregard for the facts.

    Unlike every Fassbinder I’ve seen, Tenderness also had an inescapable student-film quality about it, partly a result of doing period on a budget I guess, but it did have Kurt Raab, and that ain’t nothin’.

  6. David Ehrenstein Says:

    Raab was a marvelous Overactor. His death from AIDS was a great loss.

    Happily Udo Kier is still with us.

  7. Andreas Flohr Says:

    Kurt Raab was also set designer and props manager for many Fassbinder-Movies. Fassbinder called him “Emma Kartoffel” – poor Kurt was also the Putzfrau (cleaning woman) of Fassbinder’s Clique.

  8. He’s an impressive presence, anyway.

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