Boo (UK - DVD R2)
Scott McKenzie checks out this horror release from Momentum Pictures...
A group of teenagers want to do something different for Halloween. Luckily for them they live in a town that has an old abandoned hospital that might be haunted if the local legends are to be believed. One of them goes on ahead to set up some home-made scares for the rest, who soon follow, but once they start to explore their spooky surroundings they soon realise that the strange goings-on are not part of the festivities. At the same time, a young professional aided by a jaded policeman is searching for his sister who went missing in the same hospital just a few days earlier…
That sounds like a pretty good setup for a horror movie, doesn’t it? Unfortunately in the case of Boo, the problems begin from the very first scene. One rule of the horror genre is to give the audience some good scares within the first few minutes. Boo begins with our heroine, Jessie, a young blonde girl at home alone who receives an unsettling phone call and then realises that there is someone in the house that wants to kill her. However, her ‘attacker’ is her boyfriend playing a trick on her. Later on in the film when we learn that another girl has gone missing in the hospital I was left wondering why writer/director Anthony C Ferrante didn’t use her disappearance as the opening scare and instead plumped for a red herring for the first scene in his first feature film.
The characters are all barely-developed fodder for the ghosts that inhabit the hospital, apart from Jessie who has a psychic link via her dead mother with the evil-doings that prompted the haunting. This is understandable for a low budget horror movie but the screenplay makes the characters take unrealistic courses of action and say things that are fist-bitingly cringe-worthy. My personal favourite is the killer line ’You shoot me in the head and I’ll kick your ass.’
That particular line is spoken by the policeman who used to be the star of a series of blaxploitation movies. Now he finds himself in the position where he has to be a hero in real life, except he doesn’t really get the chance. His role in the movie is inconsequential and he might as well not have been there at all. His unnecessary presence is summed up by an attempt to set the bad guy on fire by lighting a match and kung-fu-kicking it onto a patch of alcohol, just like he used to do in the movies. His attempt doesn’t work and everyone else in the gang gets on with what they were doing as if he wasn’t there.
Boo does have a couple of plus-points though. The makeup is the highlight of the whole movie, with plenty of blood and guts thrown onto the walls and the actors. Significant effort and a fair slice of the budget has gone into making dissolving bodies look convincing and this is the one thing that moves Boo up one level from Z-grade horror. There are also moments when the lighting works well to set the mood but these moments are few and far between and the rest of the movie suffers from a lack of continuity of the light sources between shots.
You may have noticed that I haven’t found a lot to recommend in Boo. Coming from a first-time director who wrote for Fangoria I really wanted to like it but the film just doesn’t deliver, mainly due to a corny screenplay that tries to find things to do for enough central characters to fill two horror movies.
Unlike the movie itself, the video quality isn’t too bad. For a recently produced movie, it’s no surprise to report that the picture is fairly clean. The short digital effects shots are a different story though, with quite obvious pixilation, perhaps a symptom of the low budget, as are the obvious compression artefacts in the large sections of black. These shots take the viewer out of the action and would have been better if more traditional makeup effects had been used.
The feature is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 but directional sound is not fully utilised. A haunted house film is an ideal film to show off sound effects though different channels but with this being the director’s debut film for a new studio without significant money to throw around, it would be expecting a bit too much. That said, the sound quality is pretty good, with echo on the voices in appropriate places and moody music pitched at the right level.
This DVD comes with a decent selection of extras. The commentary track with the director, producer and actors is of particular interest, whether you enjoyed the feature or not. Everyone is enthusiastic about the movie and the director is quick to point out the reasons for his decisions and offers good insight into independent filmmaking. There are some interesting points about themes, references and the use of the number three in the movie that get lost in the mix when watching the film without commentary which goes to show that for fans of the movie, repeated viewings may offer that little bit extra.
There are three featurettes available on the disc: The Making of Boo, Inside the Special Effects and Tales of the Linda Vista Hospital. All three could have been edited together into one thirty-minute piece but I think it was a wise decision to leave them as separate short documentaries. As you may expect, there are plenty of talking heads saying how great everything is but you do get a good idea of what it is like to be working on the set of a low budget movie and the ‘real’ ghost stories about the hospital are a little bit creepier than the movie itself.
The deleted, alternate and extended scenes are presented in the original raw footage with an optional audio commentary from the director. The excised footage was taken out for good reason, either because it was holding up the movie or because the special effects weren’t up to scratch. It’s interesting to see that the director didn’t cling on to moments in his own screenplay and left bits out where he didn’t feel like they were working.
The trailer for Boo is included which goes on a bit too long for my liking but I assume this is because it was used in an attempt to sell the movie to the distributors so the filmmakers have tried to cram in as much as possible. Before the disc has loaded, there are trailers for The Dark, 2001 Maniacs and Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey but it is possible to skip past them.
Taken as a study piece for amateur horror filmmakers, this release has more to offer than I expected. The extra features stop this disc being a disaster because there’s a lot to learn here if you’re thinking of making a low budget movie. As Ferrante’s feature filmmaking career matures, he may become a B-movie director to look out for and I’d like to see Graveyard Filmworks fulfil their potential as a successful independent horror studio but at this point, anyone looking for a good solid horror movie in time for Halloween should steer clear of Boo.
Review by Scott McKenzie
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 23rd October 2006
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Extras: Filmmakers' Commentary, Deleted, Alternative & Extended Scenes, Making Of Featurette, Inside The Special Effects Featurette, Tales Of The Linda Vista Hospital Featurette, Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Anthony C Ferrante
Cast: Trish Coren, Jilon Ghai, Happy Mahaney, Dee Wallace Stone
Length: 90 minutes
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