Some things shouldn't be disturbed...
Year of Release: 1981
Running Time: 95 minutes (1:35)
Director: James L. Conway
Rebecca Balding ... Trish Michaels
Fred McCarren ... Mark Kinner
Anne-Marie Martin ... Jessica Ford
Jeff Harlan ... Roger Lowrie
John Crawford ... Brian Deering
Med Flory ... Dan Ostroff
In a small town near Denver, two young men begin to explore a long abandoned old mine recently re-opened by a group of miners. When one of the men is discovered missing, his friends begin a search that leads them to horrifying consequences. They are all unaware of the evil that has been unleashed and soon, one by one, the townspeople are snatched up by a monster that no one has yet to see. Suddenly, the grisly truth is revealed and a young couple is forced to confront the unknown in order to save their lives... and the entire town.
The Boogens, remindin' us that the budget gets eaten up pretty quickly when you insist on usin' a VW Bug with no tire chains durin' winter in Colorado. Not that I got anything against the Bug, mind you, I'm just sayin'; maybe if a quarter of the money hadn't gone to Biff's Towing Service we coulda avoided monster limbs fashioned outta old shop vac hoses.
An speakin' of creatures that'll eat anything, we're headin' into week three of our boycott on Mack's Stacks of Pansy (formerly Manly) Snacks ever since Mack had the gall to befoul the joint with a salad bar. Those of you that've lost your get-together spot at some point over the years to the infriginin' hordes of yuppydom understand just what a painful experience it can be. Nothin' makes sense anymore. You're hopelessly adrift in a sea of disillusionment, an next thing you know you're usin' words like "disillusionment," it's sick'nin. We gotta do it though, otherwise Mack'll fill the place up with ferns an hire a guy who does nothin' but stand around in the men's room an pass out towels an his phone number. Once that happens there's pretty much no comin' back. Why couldn't the guy just put in a pinball machine like a normal human bein'? I don't mean to keep bitchin' about this, but it's frustratin', ya know? Worse thing about it is that the only other place in town that sells anything even resemblin' diner chow is The Rural Mural, an I think everyone's already pretty clear on my feelins about that weenie enclave. One thing I will give 'em though; they ain't got a salad bar, so Billy Hilliard, Sadie Bonebreak, Cleave Furguson, Skunky Hernandez, Tetnis an me all piled in there this past weekend to protest the deplorable conditions at Mack's. I guess we coulda eaten at The Gutter Bowl, but really, the alley food's only one step up from the concession stand crud at The Grime Time, which itself is only about a half step up from cannibalism, an besides that, mixin' meals from those two places in the same week is a good way to force a gut rebellion so severe that your innards try escapin' the body as a means of self preservation. Besides, the whole point was to be seen so's to apply enough pressure to Mack to get that salad bar outta there. Course, the theory that The Rural Mural served food was quickly debunked when we actually got a good look at the menus. Is this really what city folks think we eat? I mean, just look at this thing an you tell me (I took notes on my silverware napkin):
Gunkamucka Gourmet Eats:
Beer-Battered Bluegill Basket
From "trash fish" to a classy dish in 15 minutes.
A bottom feeding banquet.
Cleaver to Beaver
Cubed steak with tail on the side.
Muskrat love at first bite.
Seize the fillet.
Served with applesauce.
Breaded bullfrog legs on a stick. A frog in the throat is worth two in the pond.
On a Wing and a Prairie:
Deep Fried Squirrel Curls
Rocky the frying squirrel.
The Fox and the Browned Betty
Breaded fox flanks with apple crisp.
Rabie Back Ribs
You'll foam at the mouth for these racoon ribs slathered in BBQ sauce.
Always a little different depending upon the diet of nature's roadkill crew.
Turkey pot pie with mystery veggies straight from the craw.
Deep fried stork skins. They deliver, baby.
A fancy feast for the senses, served with potatoes and garnished with cat nip.
Ground and served with Manwich. Eating crow has never been this good.
The Partridge Spamily
Hungarian Partridge packed to the gills with Spam stuffing. A thrill from tail to bill.
Wile E. always makes for a smily.
Chubby Chukar Sandwich
Chukar breast fillets, mayo, and bacon. A new twist on an old concept.
Served rare, medium, or well done. Slightly pink, but none of the stink.
Fowl in a blanket, no Dutch Oven necessary.
Little Bunny Stew Stew
Slugged Bunny with carrots, potatoes, and celery.
Honey BBQ Badger
Bite into one today, because if it weren't dead, it'd do the same to you.
Apparently the Chinchilladas aren't in season, in case anyone was wonderin'. An if that ain't bad enough, then you've got all the phony "frontierspeople" clad in cheap flannel that Saul an Blaine Schwartzberg (the guys who on the joint) convinced 'em to buy lookin' atcha like you're some kinda hillbilly celebrity cause they saw ya pull into the parkin' lot in a vehicle more'n two years old. Which... I guess, was prolly a saving grace, cause when the check came we were lookin' at havin' to pay with the titles to our rigs. Thankfully one of the awestruck posers from Salem picked up the tab an we escaped without havin' to squeeze through that absurdly narrow bathroom window. I might just rat those guys out to the EPA for havin' a window that small in the bathroom of a place that sells "food" of this caliber, cause there's gotta be a rule against that. Anyway, alls I know is that if I don't get a chicken fried steak here pretty soon I'm gonna go on a rampage with a spork or somethin', cause I dunno how much more of this I can take.
Fortunately, the flick this week was much easier to digest than the Sloppy Crows. Knew I shoulda gone with the Otter Chops the moment I bit into that thing. Anyway, The Boogens is another flick in that great tradition of the underground gnaw monster, an possibly the best flick ever made to feature a cantankerous poodle who breaks up more protectionless sex scenes than the California state legislature. Now there're some people out there, stupid people, if we're bein' honest, who'd tell you there's nothin' new to be learned from this kinda flick once you've seen Tremors, Blood Beach, or The Being, but I'm here to tell you, this movie contains revelations you might need one day to stay alive in the event of subterranean slug monster incursions. So in the interest of public safety, I'm gonna throw out a few of the more fascinatin' facts that can be taken away from The Boogens, even if it does mean disinterestin' the public. First, in minin' country, all basements come standard with a tunnel leadin' to the nearest shaft, just in case you're struck by an overwhelmin' urge to pan at 2:30 in the mornin'. We know they come standard because if it weren't the case, people'd take one look at these huge holes durin' the real estate open house an say somethin' like "hey, turkey, why's there a Vietcong tunnel next to the washin' machine?", before fillin' up on complimentary finger foods an sneakin' out before the presentation. Second, never put a guy with rheumatoid arthritis in charge of dynamite tossin' duty. An third, if you can find a woman who don't hafta be coerced into squattin' in the woods, marry 'er.
But ya know, there is one thing about this flick that I find disheartenin', an that's the way it reminds us how every eight years or so we stick some guy in office who immediately starts makin' the exact same governmental regulatory mistakes we've made in the past. He promises to clear out all the "job killing" red tape an get the country back on track again, an what happens? Underground monsters eat our freshly replenished stock of miners. Nobody seems to remember the monsters were the reason the mine got shut down in the first place, an so we gotta make the same mistakes over an over again instead of doin' the smart thing an findin' completely new ways to make mistakes. I mean, aren't there any new bad ideas left? Have politics hit the same brick wall as the movie industry? Cause let's face it, in the movies at least, there aren't any new ideas. Or maybe there are, but they're new an scary, which means they could tank at the box office an thus might as well not exist because nobody's gonna take the risk. So, is life just imitating art? Are the Tobe Hoopers an John Kennedys extinct? Is it gonna be Michael Bays an Ronald Reagans from now until aliens finally invade an start breedin' us to sell as intergalactic snack treats? I HATE it when a movie gets all politically charged an reminds ya how bad life is. How come they gotta shove all this subtext down our throats at every opportunity? Now that's somethin' that needs more regulation, makin' ya overthink everything. It's gettin' to where you can't even enjoy a good mine shaft monster movie anymore.
The movie begins with a sneaky screenwriter runnin' a series of old gold rush photos an newspaper clippins detailin' the rise an fall of a silver mine in Colorado over the openin' credits so we'll actually look at 'em instead of gettin' up to microwave some popcorn. Then we come to the present day where this groupa hard hats (Roger, Mark, an Dan) who work for Sheriff Bridges from The Waltons (Brian) are headin' into the mine to see if it's worth tryin' to tap the Rockies one more time. Course the two younger guys (Roger an Mark) mostly spend their time babblin' like slasher meat in a slumber party movie about their double date that night, until foreman Dan tells 'em to pay attention an help 'im blow the shaft or he'll see to it that they don't live to get theirs blown ever again. So they help Dan remove the blockage from the shaft an once they've got a clear path opened up everybody heads home for the day while this old hermit who looks like Gandalf (either John Huston or Ian McKellen, take your pick) watches their progress with a mournful expression cause he knows what the 49ers awoke in the darkness when they delved too greedily and too deep. Elsewhere, some gal in a station wagon hasta swerve to miss a deer in the road an ends up plowin' 'er woodie into a snowbank, resulting in severe hose shrinkage an a long walk home. Eventually she arrives at 'er cabin, but pretty quick she starts hearin' this noise like an asthmatic walrus tourin' a Samsung battery factory, an when she heads into the kitchen to see what's goin' on she gets dragged down into the basement like a trunk fulla bell bottoms. I just hope it's not a buncha Dungeons & Dragons nerds down there. No tellin' what they might do to 'er, or make her dress up as. Anyway, the next mornin', the tunnel rats're back on duty an find themselves at a three way fork in the road that should just be two, an when Brian leads 'em down the far right passage they run smack into a gigantic cave-in an he forces 'em to play Dig Dug without an NES console. Don't worry though, it was only the far right tunnel, not the alt-right tunnel. You don't wanna go down that one, cause Steve Bannon lives down there an once he starts soundin' off about the Jews there's just no stoppin' 'im. Like I was sayin' though, they clear out the rubble and discover an underground lake that seems to have caused the destruction of more 49ers than prescription pain pills an concussions put together, cause not too far away they find a pile of human bones stacked up higher'n Donald Trump's blood pressure after the 9th circuit court ruled on his travel ban. Meanwhile, Roger an Mark's lady friends (Jess an Trish) have arrived at the couples' new pad, but when Trish tries takin' a bath to make sure there's nothin' but cold water left for the guys an their expectant winkies, she realizes the hot water heater ain't workin' an heads into the basement where Jess's obnoxious little yapper dog (Tiger) pops out of a pile of boxes an just about scares 'er out of 'er dignity.
Then the guys arrive at home an Roger an Jess head for their room an start makin' noises like a coupla Hoolock Gibbons in the Portland primate house while Tiger tries breakin' 'em up like referee Mills Lane, as Trish is gettin' outta the tub an discoverin' that a bath towel doesn't cover your hinder worth a damn if you don't tie it off. Needless to say, she makes an excellent first impression on Mark, an once she de-glistens 'erself the two of 'em hang out in the kitchen makin' awkward small talk until the law comes to the door askin' about the landlady. It'd be easy to just tell the guy she got dragged into the basement an eaten by a radon infected packrat, cept they dunno about that, so Mark hasta take a crowbar an pry Roger an Jess apart long enough to give the cop a statement provin' they didn't dress the woman out an hang 'er upside down out in the barn or anything. Then everybody heads down to the greasy spoon for all you can puke liver an onions night, only Roger hasta cut out early to get some sleep so he can drive to Denver to grab some new mine blueprints an toss quarters onto Mile High Stadium to watch the Pony Express bend over an get 'em. Unfortunately, while everybody was reducin' their life expectancies over at the diner, the thing that goes sump in the night has crawled up outta the basement again an tried turnin' Tiger into puppy chow an pinned 'im down inside the china cabinet, an when Roger comes home an finds the trash can overturned with its contents spread around the room like a racoon stopped by to improve the feng shui, he's P.O.'d. Course he can't find the mutt, so he crashes for a bit while Mark an Trish have a come-on duel at the bar to determine pole positioning, an once that's settled they head home an leave Jess at the pool table to fleece Brian an Dan outta their Lear Capital portfolios. Meanwhile, Roger gives up on sleepin' after his bed collapses like a Syrian ceasefire deal an heads for his truck, only when he walks into the garage he gets grabbed around the neck by a jalapeno sausage rope with an X-acto knife that slashes his throat an drags 'im under the truck where he buys the Hickory Farm. Then Mark an Trish come home an roll around in front of the fireplace until Trish gets rug burn on both sides of 'er body, but before they can seal the squeal, Tiger pops up outta nowhere an ruins yet another touchy/feely moment. Hasn't anyone in this house heard of a leash? For cripes sake, this dog has cut short more sex scenes than Aunt Flo an the MPAA combined. Anyway, the next mornin' Mark heads back to work to find the mine rock blocked by Black Lung Bart (Gandalf the Grizzled), who's also seized the opportunity to help 'imself to a bag fulla their dynamite. Then Mark tells Brian about the shaft, an when Brian asks if they can dig it Mark tells him to shut his mouth cause that shaft's one bad mutha.
Elsewhere, Trish's gone into town to nose around the newspaper office an read up on the mine collapse from the openin' credits where she finds out that one guy managed to survive the cave in, an that there're some folks around town who think maybe he caused it on account of 'im bein' goofier'n an episode of Laugh-In. Which is, to be fair, much better than the story the old guy told 'em at the time of his rescue, because let's face it; no tourists want to come to a dyin' little town outside Denver where there're carnivorous cavern critters scuttlin' around. Specially when the place don't have wi-fi. Anyhow, back at the house, Jess finally notices Roger's truck never actually made it outta the garage, an so she kinda shrugs it off an thinks "Well, that's weird, guess I'll go back inside, strip down to my most vulnerable state and climb inside a slick bathtub. Sure hope no tentacles come up through the plumbin'." Unfortunately, somethin' starts slitherin' up through the heatin' grate out in the hallway an sucks Tiger down faster'n a protein milkshake at an aerobics dance studio, an when Jess hears the noise she slinks out in 'er towel an next thing you know the beast from succa flats is tryin' to pull her tarts down through the vent for dessert. This's exactly why we need to make American grates again. That sucker'd never've gotten through the steel that quick if it hadn't been that cheap Chinese crap. Nevermind that though, cause pretty quick the rocktopus starts chokin' on Jess's lacquered fingernails an hasta let 'er loose to dislodge the mood ring that's now stuck around its uvula, an once it's finally free it starts snarlin' an snottin' like a cougar on Sudafed an climbs up through the hole an shreds 'er into a pulled pork sandwich. But while that's goin' on, the guys finally find the silver lining around the mine shaft when Roger's body bobs to the surface of the lake like a turd in the McDonald's restroom, an that's right about the time the Klondike Pizza man shows up with his stolen explosives ready to avenge the coal miner's slaughter. First he hasta explain himself though, cause he don't want anyone to think he's sabotagin' the precious metal futures without just cause, an after he tells the guys about the glopola monsters Mark remembers the tunnel leadin' into his basement an goes tearin' outta there to rescue Trish's tush. Unfortunately, while Brian's tryin' to negotiate the release of the old coot's Zippo (which is lit an precariously close to a stick of dynamite), the chasm creature comes roarin' up outta the pond an drags Dan off while Claim Jumper Claus lobs TNT into the lake an ends up gettin' stripped of a lit stick that blows 'im into old man splinters an traps Brian in the mine. Hate to stop here just as we're only eight or nine minutes away from actually seein' the monster, but this one's pretty decent, so if you really wanna know what happens, quit bein' so cheap an go buy a copy.
Alrighty, there you have it, The Boogens. It looks like it's pronounced BOO-gens, but apparently it's Boog-ens, like boogeyman, or booger. Pretty good flick too, and rather under-rated in my estimation. If they'd had just a little more money it probably wouldn't be under-rated, because they wouldn't have had to hide the monsters until the last eight minutes of the movie and more people would've recommended it. Of course, as we've discussed many times before, sometimes that's a good call, and sometimes it's just a case of the director tryin' to polish a turd. This time, though, I think they made the right choice, because the rest of the movie is good enough that you've actually got something to ruin by floppin' the little gooey Bulbasaur critter out prior to the opening credits like a lotta flicks do. Strangely, this movie doesn't actually do *anything* before the opening credits. Most of the time that space is reserved for an opening jolt designed to tide us over until the exposition finally finishes and we can go back to slimin' the walls with blood and monster glopola. Gettin' back to that budget situation though, the IMDB claims the budget on this guy was $600,000, and while I don't quite buy that, I think it was at least around $350,000 because of the mine interiors. Not a real mine, I'm sure you're surprised that a film crew didn't want to risk fartin' around inside a real shaft for a movie that they knew would never play outside drive-in theaters. But they're still fairly elaborate and manage not to look like complete crap the way many cave sets do, which is why I'm inclined to believe they did at least have enough money to pay the actors more than minimum wage.
Still, as you'll see if you check out the movie, the monster (and they only had one) is a little bit pitiful, hence, my doubts about the $600,000 figure. Still a fun movie though, especially since there just weren't that many of these underground monster movies prior to the advent of CGI, at which point they became more numerous, but completely unwatchable. And to get even more specific, it might be the only underground monster movie to be set in winter, which I liked as well. The flick was shot in Utah and Colorado between January and February of 1981 over the course of six weeks, with the last day requiring 20 hours to get the remainder of the shots finished. From what I saw it didn't seem rushed, but then it wasn't all that unusual for these low budget movies to end up with multiple days like that near the end of the shooting schedule, because by that point some of the people working on it are usually so sick of it that there's no way you'd ever get them all back together again for any necessary reshoots, so I say they did a pretty good job with the time and money they had. The only thing that really sticks in your craw is how the "slutty" girl never gets nekkid or even completes a sexual encounter, while the "good" girl gets half nekkid on two occasions and DOES have sex, so what's that about? I hate it when these hot shot directors go changin' the rules on us, ya know? Actually there is an answer to this, and it's that the "slutty" girl had agreed prior to do a nude scene, but changed her mind after she'd secured the job. Clever girl. Clever, sneaky girl.
Anyhow, let's get a tentacle tourniquet on this thing and check its heart rate. The plot, while a little slow and perhaps a bit too focused on character development, is pretty good. Underground monsters terrorize miners before gettin' sealed up like a geological tupperware container until the mine is inevitably reopened for a second round through the blue collar buffet line. Additionally, it's always good to have a crazy old man who "knows something" too, so extra points for including the prophetic old coot. Every good horror movie needs a prophetic old coot. The acting, given the budget, is surprisingly decent too. No real standout performances here, but everyone is at least slightly north of average, and all the characters come across as authentic and even likeable. This is one of those rare low budget horror titles where you not only like the characters, but kinda give a damn about what happens to them, or at least I did. Anne-Marie Martin and Jeff Harlan are probably the best, even though you can tell early on when they start showin' the mattress a good time and the emphasis shifts to Rebecca Balding and Fred McCarren in that "getting to know you" kitchen table scene that the former two will be our expendables for the evening.
In any event, here's who matters and why: Rebecca Balding (The Silent Scream), Anne-Marie Martin (Prom Night 1980, Runaway 1984, Halloween II 1981, Savage Fear, The Shape of Things to Come, Dr. Strange), John Crawford (The Severed Arm, I Saw What You Did, Jason and the Argonauts, Zombies of the Stratosphere), Med Flory (The Hearse), Jon Lormer (Creepshow, Destination Space), Peg Stewart (The Time Machine 1978, Something Weird), Scott Wilkinson (Deadly Invasion: The Killer Bee Nightmare, Hangar 18, The Time Machine 1978), Marcia Dangerfield (Bats, Neon City, Earthbound). Some burnt out folks might tell you a few of the cast members managed to move on to "bigger and better" things. Of course, we all know the truth, which is that their careers peaked when they starred in The Boogens, but I do feel compelled to let everyone know that Rebecca Balding went on to play Elise Rothman on Charmed, as well as Dori Doreau on Sledge Hammer!, and that John Crawford is likely to be best remembered as Sheriff Ep Bridges on The Waltons.
The special effects are the only place where the movie stumbles. I think I've pretty well covered the deficiencies of the monster (and the tentacles that often appear on screen), although it's certainly nowhere near the worst monster put to film. It looks to be a hand puppet based upon its movements, but even though the puppeteer work is solid, the critter just has that plastic lookin' head and those big cheesy eyes that are difficult to overlook. Beyond the monster, it's mostly just gashes and blood, with the gashes being pretty decent and the blood varying from scene to scene. Essentially, if the blood is running, it's too bright and too thick, whereas if what we're seeing is stationary, say, on a corpse, it's much better. But at the end of the day, this area is still the movie's Achilles tendon. The shooting locations, particularly the exteriors, are nice to look at. The cabin exterior with the snow on the roof really gives it that rural, somewhat isolated feeling that many of the best horror flicks have, and the little town's "if you blink you'll miss it" main street is of a type which many of us have seen before, and can relate to. The interiors are great too, including the cabin itself, and the short sequence filmed inside the local bar. The mine interiors (including the underground lake) were mostly filmed on a sound stage in Park City, Utah, whose population at the time of shooting was around 3000. However, at some point during the filming, the explosions evidently ignited the set and burned it down, so *some* of the mine interiors were actually filmed in a real mine. That said, the mine set is decent (particularly the area with the underground lake), and dark enough that you never get a good enough look at it to find serious fault, although there's still little doubt about it being a set just from looking at the design. The soundtrack is reasonably good about projecting the correct mood and generating a little suspense, and is a big part of why I opted to list the genre of the movie as "Horror/Mystery," because it's got a tense, ominous tone about it. The opening credits track, for instance, features a harmonica to get that old west gold rush vibe working for it, which sets the tempo for a movie set in a small Midwestern town. The rest of the soundtrack reminds one of the early Friday the 13th movies, only without the manic violins. So basically, it's tense, but not over the top, and it works out fairly well. Not especially memorable, but definitely solid. Overall, The Boogens is better than most subterranean critter flicks, and a lot of fun despite being a little slow in the pacing department. So if you haven't seen it and like the plot setup, I'd recommend it for a blind buy without hesitation. Very under-rated flick, check it out.