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MOVIE REVIEW: BREAK THE CHAIN AND SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES IN “BOO!” (2019)

Monday, April 8, 2019 | Review

BOO! (2019)
Starring Aurora Perrineau, Jaden Piner, Jill Marie Jones, Rob Zabrecky
Directed by Luke Jaden
Written by Luke Jaden, Diane Michelle
Vertical Entertainment Distribution

Sometimes, the most enjoyable horror films are the simplest (as in 2014’s IT FOLLOWS) – an easy set-up allows the audience to settle into their expectations of fright and gives the characters a more realistic base from which to take action, which then assists audience identification (“what would I do?”). BOO! has a very simple set up from which it spins a fair to middling story.

In 1980, on Halloween night in Detroit, a furtive man enters a suburban residence and begins shooting. The, in the present day, we are introduced to an interracial family who receive an anonymous package – a Boo! – consisting of a sheet of paper warning, in rhyme, that the family must pass the trick on or suffer dire consequences. Taking this for a Halloween prank, religious dad James (Rob Zabrecky) burns the message, to the outright fear of young Caleb (Jaden Piner), who has heard about this urban legend and takes it very seriously. As Halloween night progresses, the dysfunctional cracks in the family begin to widen as daughter Morgan (Aurora Perrineau) – prone to depression and self-harm – sneaks out to meet her boyfriend, Mom Elyse (Jill Marie Jones) indulges her addictions, and all the family members begin to experience frightening visions…

 

“BOO! is a spooky little Halloween film that almost, but not quite, hits the mark”

The idea of the curse is sometimes a difficult one to pull off in horror films, especially when the curse itself seems random in its targeting and unfocused in its effects. BOO! is in no way a bad film, and while the problems inherent in its chain-letter set-up do eventually swamp the story by the end, there are a number of well-chosen details and solid choices in its favor. Sure, there are a few too many jump scares (almost a given with a “vague evil” cursing a family), some shaky acting, at times ropy effects, and I found the ending underwhelming.

Zabrecky, Perrineau & Jones

But to its benefit are the realistic depiction of a 21st century interracial marriage, the father’s (Rob Zabrecky is quite good in the role) religious zealotry not being the complete focus of his character (and presented more as a reaction to chaos in his life and “lessons learned”) and Aurora Perrineau’s depiction of young woman feeling trapped by her situation and choices given her in life. Add to this a quite spooky scene involving a view-master and the film’s slow, methodical pacing and a lot of the film works quite well. One thing that occurred to me while watching was that, given the central motivator of the plot, BOO! might have worked better if it ditched some of the more gory effects (and the extended teenage sex scene in the car) and instead had embraced being a solid, scary PG-13 horror film – although demands of marketing and such might have made that impossible. As it stands, BOO! is a spooky little Halloween film that almost, but not quite, hits the mark.

Shawn Garrett
Shawn M. Garrett is the co-editor of PSEUDOPOD, the premiere horror fiction podcast, and is either the dumbest smart man or the smartest dumb man you ever met. Thanks to a youth spent in the company of Richard Matheson, Vincent Price, Carl Kolchak & Jupiter Jones, he has pursued a life-long interest in the thrilling, the horrific and the mysterious – be it in print, film, art or audio. He has worked as a sewerage groundskeeper, audio transcription editor, pornography enabler, insurance letter writer – he was once paid by Marvel Comics to pastiche the voice of Stan Lee in promotional materials and he spends his days converting old pulp fiction into digital form for minimal pay. He now lives near the ocean in a small metal box and he hopes that becoming a Yuggothian brain-in-a-jar is a viable future, as there is NO WAY he will ever read all the books he has on his lists, or listen to all the music he wants to hear. Everything that he is he owes to his late sister Susan, a shining star in the pre-internet world of fan-fiction, who left this world unexpectedly in 2010. He spends an inordinate amount of time reading, writing and watching movies.