Monday, April 25, 2011

Review: Mr. Boogedy (25th Anniversary!)

No one will believe this, but it wasn't that long ago that the Disney Channel showed classic animated films and quality original content. Anyone younger than 20 will not be able to remember, and those of us who are old enough are unfortunately losing grasp of our memories. But it's true! The Disney Channel survived for years on movies and shows for the whole family, not just sitcom dreck that appeals to preteen girls. And like the best Disney animated classics, their made-for-television stories were occasionally intense, arguably too intense for the core audience. That's what made them so much fun. I doubt any of you have seen the movie I'm discussing tonight, and if you have, then you can count yourself very lucky indeed. Let's talk about Mr. Boogedy.

"He had a grilled-cheese sandwich kinda face."

The movie opens with the Davis family moving into a new house in Lucifer Falls, New England (hoo boy). It's not long before the kids notice some spooky shenanigans going on, but Mom and Dad are preoccupied with unpacking. A strange old man (John "Gomez" Astin) informs them that the house is haunted by the ghost of William Hanover, a cruel pilgrim who loved a widow named Marion. She didn't return his feelings, so Hanover agreed to give the Devil his soul in exchange for a cloak that granted him incredible powers. However, his first spell doesn't work out just right, and he destroys his own home, simultaneously killing himself, Marion, and Marion's son Jonathan. As a result, Hanover and the widow's little boy are confined to the house that currently occupies the land, and Marion is unable to enter and retrieve Jonathan, being forever separated from her son. Once all this becomes clear to the Davis family, they reason that Hanover (who they call "the boogedy man") is powerless without his hell-spawned cloak, and devise a plan to take it away. This will prove easier said than done, of course. Boogedy Boogedy BOO!

Released 25 years ago this week, Mr. Boogedy is the quintessential nostalgic horror film for 80s kids. It's got cheesy effects, likable characters, spooky settings, and a formidable villain. You have to wonder how much this script got looked over back in the day. After all, there aren't many baddies from the House of Mouse who've called upon Satan in exchange for a favor. Maleficent, sure, and Chernabog from Fantasia kind of is the Devil, but that's the most of it. (Editor's Note: I say "most" because as commenter Otto Baron pointed out to me, the Sanderson sisters in 1993's Hocus Pocus obviously came from the bowels of Hell, and had no problem pointing that out. Although, if Garry Marshall in a costume fooled them, one gets the idea that Satan didn't give them much attention.) You can't really count the shadowy figures that Dr. Facilier partners with in The Princess and the Frog, simply because the movie deftly avoids using words like "Satan" or "demon" throughout. Nope, Boogedy was a rare beast. 

It's great how this movie escalates. At the start, Boogedy's antics seem harmless, even fun: moving furniture, creepy disembodied voices, the typical poltergeist bit. By the end of the story, Boogedy is actually trying to kill the Davis family. He's gone from a cranky old man with a broken heart to a vengeful demon. Not to mention that the make-up work was more than decent, giving the sour ghost a fearsome appearance. The other special effects may not seem so special by today's standards, but I saw Boogedy's face behind my eyelids more than once when I was younger.

The cast, which includes Kristy Swanson, is game for the whole affair, and you have to love the joke shop-owning dad, who supplies the movie with some of its biggest laughs. The real draw though was getting John Astin to portray Mr. Witherspoon. The man was a pro, and whatever he thought about the script or the characterization, he gave this made-for-TV flick everything he had. A truly wonderful piece of work.

Disney was quick to capitalize on Boogedy's success, and made a sequel entitled Bride of Boogedy in 1987. It was worth watching, but pales in comparison to the original. Unfortunately, most horror fans are unlikely to ever see this mini-masterpiece, or its follow-up. Disney refuses to give it a proper home release, the list of reasons considerable, although mostly nonsensical. One could take a chance and buy DVD copies of fuzzy VHS rips off ebay, but this is a risky and costly move.

Mr. Boogedy is a movie that transports me back to age 7 whenever I hear its name, and my first real horror-comedy. If you ever get the chance to see it, don't hesitate. "Old grilled-cheese face" wouldn't like that.


  1. "Hocus Pocus" is a Disney film that did indeed mention Satan by name, and the Sanderson sisters (the three witches in the film)worshipped him. Hell is also metioned. When the boy tells Bette Middler's witch to go to Hell, she not only informs him she's been there, she greatly enjoyed it.

  2. I love Hocus Pocus, it's a childhood favorite. And it's true that passing mention is made of Satan and Hell, but during the film, the Sanderson sisters never talk to the Devil, or use his name to gain power. They just follow Garry Marshall around because he's wearing a costume. Something tells me that if a cheap outfit from a 5&10 made them think they were actually talking to the dark one, then maybe they never really have, and got their powers from some lesser imp or demon. I mean, they also confuse a woman in hair-rollers for the legendary Medusa!

    Regardless, it's a great movie, and I think you're right, it should be included in the list of Disney villains who've wielded the black magics. I'll edit the post.

  3. Here's an interview with the "Boogedy" creators regarding the 25th anniversary:

  4. I have requested that the Disney Company release Boogedy Man, and The Bride of Boogedy Man on DVD/Blue Ray, every year for ages now. My four kids grew up watching their VCR tape taped from the Disney Channel back in 1986 and 1987. I still have those copies and we watch them every October. Why oh why doesn't Disney realize there is a strong market for these two movies? And yes, the Disney Channel was awesome in the 1980's, with shows like "Donald Presents", and "Good Morning Mickey" and showing classic Disney cartoons throughout the day. Much better than the computer generated plastic look junk of today. Hate to say it but those were the days! Michale Eisener supposedly loved the Boogedy series, so why not revamp the current Disney Channel and bring back the real Disney cartoons and shows we LOVED.

  5. Disney on Demand is airing Bride of Boogedy, I would assume, through the end of September. The film has never looked better! I don't think they are airing it on their actual channel, BUT this may mean they are considering a re-release. No Mr. Boogedy, unfortunately.

    1. Well, that IS interesting. Step in the right direction, anyway!

  6. I loved Mr.Boogedy and the Bride of Boogedy. I actually stumbled across this blog, because I have been searching for a DVD copy of the movies for years. I remember when it was aired on tv, and my family sitting around and watching it. I loved all things horror genre even as a kid, and my sister did too, so this one was a Disney treat. Another lost gem in the Disney vault of this genre was, "Watcher in the Woods".