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.
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.