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Boogeyman opens with one of the most effective scare sequences in recent memory, one that recalls us to the fears of childhood and sets the tone for the rest of the picture. In the traditional old, dark house, eight-year-old Timmy (Caden St. Clair) is in bed, too scared to sleep. Commonplace items in the room take on a sinister appearance until he turns on his bedside lamp, revealing the hulking shape across the room to be just a chair strewn with clothes and sporting equipment. But when he turns the lamp back off, the shape begins to move toward him. Switch the light back on, and the shape collapses to the floor, an innocent bathrobe. It’s a clever illustration of the ways in which, as children and even sometimes as adults, we can believe that the forms we see in a dark room might be alive and wicked; the ways a fertile imagination can even trick us into believing we see it shift its weight, sharpen its claws, and lick its lips in anticipation. This being a horror film, it turns out that there's more going on than an overactive imagination. Timmy causes a clatter that attracts the attention of his father, who comes in and lectures him about being scared of the Boogeyman. Daddy is then, of course, dragged into the closet by an unseen figure, never to return.

15 years later, Tim is an friendly but haunted young man, played now by Barry Watson, whose appearance and manner do a lot to suggest the boy within the man. Watson’s nose and roundish face not only match the shape and proportions of the child actor, they connect with our understanding that Tim hasn't progressed emotionally much beyond his childhood, while Watson's likeable, ordinary-guy quality helps us to empathize with Tim even though he’s quite possibly crazy, plagued by delusions and flashbacks to his childhood terrors.

Tim's fears haven’t lessened with the passage of time. He lives in a studio apartment with no nooks and crannies for a monster to hide in, his clothes hang on a steel rack next to the living area, and even his refrigerator has a clear glass door. His precautions at home can’t protect him forever, though, as his girlfriend Jessica (Tory Mussett) has invited Tim to spend Thanksgiving with her family. After the necessary investigation from her father, Tim goes to his room to await a secret visit from Jessica. He’s denied the getting of his jollies, though, when his haggard mother appears to him in a dream, throwing around threats and accusations and generally scaring the crap out of him. A phone conversation with his uncle Mike confirms that Tim’s mother has just died, and he sets off for a long-delayed visit home to “sort through his mother’s things,” which, as always, translates to “confront the horrible thing that happened in the past.”

Boogeyman begins as little more than a collection of genre conventions, and it rarely strays far from formula, but it almost always uses the conventions knowingly and well. The director, Stephen T. Kay, keeps the tension ratcheted up consistently from beginning to end, though he relies too often on the jump scare to keep the audience on edge. His effects are largely

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