Just the name ''Boogeyman'' conjures up all kinds of creepy childhood fears of things that go bump in the night, right? Too bad the boring Boogeyman doesn't do the same.
Little Timmy Jensen is your typical 10-year-old kid who's afraid of the big, bad Boogeyman lurking in his closet. But one night, when Timmy's dad comes in his room to do the usual ''Nope, nothing's there'' routine, he opens the closet-and, right before Timmy's eyes, is immediately sucked in by some unknown malevolent force. That's got to screw with a kid's head. Now, 15 years later, Tim (Barry Watson) is indeed messed up, inherently apprehensive of closets and the dust bunnies under the bed, but trying to move on with his life. That is until his mother unexpectedly dies, sending Tim back to the point of origin: his dilapidated childhood home in the sticks. He decides he'll spend one night in the house to get over his fears once and for all and accept the fact his dad just ''left.'' Ah, if it were only that easy.
When the entire film rests on the shoulders of the guy who played the oldest son on the WB's 7th Heaven, you know you're not in for anything meaningful in the way of acting. But that's fine. Horror films of this nature aren't about good acting. They are about dumb folks walking into even dumber situations. Watson fulfills his duties as said hero nicely by a) looking fearfully at and inside a lot of closets and under a lot of beds and b) walking cautiously around empty houses. The rest of the unknown cast also do their best as the Boogeyman's victims and potential victims. They include Tory Mussett (The Matrix Reloaded) as Tim's cutesy girlfriend, Emily Deschanel (The Alamo) as Tim's long-lost childhood sweetheart, and Skye McCole Bartusiak (The Patriot) as a mysterious little girl who guides Tim in the right direction to defeating the Boogeyman. Clever girl.
OK, it's sort of understandable how Boogeyman got made. The film's premise has a built-in scare factor that's tapped into our childhood fears of the darkened closet. Yet, once you get past this initial idea, there just has to be more substance than Boogeyman provides. Director Stephen T. Kay (Get Carter) goes through all the right motions, setting up the camera to make it look as if the Boogeyman is lurking everywhere you turn. But it's a very, very long buildup to the climax. After about the 1,000th close-up shot of a closet door, you're ready to jump onscreen and churn up some good scares yourself. By the time the anticlimactic showdown actually happens, you already have your foot out the door, just thankful it's coming to an end.
The not-too-frightening, plodding Boogeyman proves that major Hollywood studios like to dump all their stinkers at the beginning of the year, when it doesn't really matter.