Monday, November 10, 2008

Boo/Scream and Run (USA, 2005)

(Trailer.) Anthony C. Ferrante's debut feature film, a dead teenager film that would have been well served to have a slightly older cast, is a derivative hodgepodge of ideas that manages to entertain and satisfy if you can get past the first half hour. Indeed, the typically postmodern opening sequence is absolutely ghastly (as in bad, not scary), as is the cheap title sequence, and it is easy to understand that one might choose to change DVDs once the lead actress gets her throat "slit," but if one actually does make it past that and the excessive time required to both introduce the multitudinous characters and to get them inside the deserted hospital location, what follows is a well-shot ghost story with some inspired gore and jokes and more than a few scenes that actually make one jump in one's seat.
True, the ideas found in BOO are mostly borrowed from other films—both better and worse—but Ferrante's surprisingly assured direction manages to nonetheless keep most of the pilfered scares effective, even if a few of the ideas (like the lead character’s ghostly annual phone call from her mum) are really unnecessary. The acting is variable throughout the film, but since almost everyone was cast by type, the general lack thespian skills doesn’t do much damage. Still, in any and all of the few scenes in which Dee Wallace-Stone appears as Nurse Russell, she obviously outclasses anyone she shares the scene with. Dig Wayne as Det. Arlo Ray Baines (an ex-blaxploitation actor gone small town cop) manages to hold his own and remain memorable as well, but the rest of the cast could use some time at the Lee Strassberg Theatre and Film Institute.
Five teenagers—predictably enough: a prankster named Emmett (Happy Mahaney), a jock named Kevin (Jilon Ghai), his nice girlfriend Jessie (Trish Coren), a hot fuck-around slut named Marie (Nicole Rayburn), and the brooding youth-with-a-heart named Freddy (Josh Holt)—decide on Halloween—like, when else?—to break into the huge local deserted and legendarily haunted hospital—like, every town has one—for some Halloween thrills. At the same time, a young yuppie named Allan (Michael Samluck) asks Arlo Ray (Dig Wayne), an old friend of his father, to help him find his runaway sister Meg (Rachel Melvin), who was last seen breaking into the hospital. Although Arlo is all "don't you go there," he nonetheless not only tells Allan the secret way into the hospital but gets hit by a guilt trip and eventually enters the hospital, too. Although it is reiterated that the third floor—where everyone eventually ends up—is the floor to avoid, in truth the ghostly happenings occur throughout the entire structure, a building that is apparently impossible to exit once inside. The structure is held sway by the evil ghost of Jacob (M.Steven Felty), a child molester/killer that burned to death when the locked third floor went up in flames (a fire he himself started), and he—assisted by the ghost of a little girl he sex-murdered in a closet—picks off the intruders. (Why the little girl, an innocent victim of Jacob, should be evil as a ghost is an aspect ignored.) The surviving characters get unexpected help in the end from the dead Nurse Russell, with whom Trish has an inexplicit psychic connection.
The rest of the film—for all its plot holes and lapses in logic—has the normal body count expected of a dead teenager film, but the atmosphere is excellent, the scares often extremely successful and the gore for the most part glutinously globular. Highpoints of the movie include exploding dead, Marie-the-hot-slut in Frederick’s of Hollywood (like normal for the exploitation films of today, the babe doesn't get past the panties and bra), an unexpectedly effective use of a ghostly clown, dead who don’t know they’re dead, dead going to mush, an inordinate amount of effective jump scares and excellent atmosphere, effects and editing.
The bad points (in addition to those already mentioned) are too numerous to list, but it is only an indication of how well the film is nonetheless stitched together that, despite all its lackings, BOO still remains an enjoyable and at-times rollercoaster ride of frights. In the end, though flawed, BOO is a fine example of popcorn ghostly horror that is, as a whole, a fun flick to watch.

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