Directed by James L. Conway in 1981, The Boogens is set in a Colorado mountain town where two younger men, Roger (Jeff Harlan) and Mark (Fred McCarren), are making some extra money by helping two older men, Brian (John Crawford) and Dan (Med Flory), dig through a previously abandoned silver mine with the intentions of fixing it up and reopening it. When they clear some blockage with dynamite, they unknowingly let loose a horde of previously trapped creatures known as 'Boogens' who proceed to make their way through the shafts of the mine and then out into the area surrounding it.
The younger guys leave the mine, completely unaware of what they've just done, and meet up with their girlfriends - Jessica (Anne-Marie Martin) and Trish (Rebecca Balding) - who have shown up just in time for the weekend's festivities to get underway - some sex, some drinking and some partying in a house that they've rented for the occasion. What they don't realize is that the house has a passageway in the basement that is connected to the mine they just left, that same mine that had the creatures in it. Meanwhile, a strange old man (John Lormer) keeps his eyes on everyone in town and as such, figures out what is going on before everyone else does. Trish, intrigued by a story that Roger tells her about the bones of some miners found underground, starts to investigate and soon finds out what is really going on as the creatures start picking off the townsfolk one by one...
Though the first half of the movie is a bit on the slow side, the later half more than makes up for it with some relentless monster chase scenes and some fun creature effects. The filmmakers are smart enough not to show more of the creatures than necessary for most of the film and let more of the carnage and mayhem play out in the shadows than in the light, but the prosthetic and creature effects that we do see work well. If there are pacing problems early in the picture, by the time the end credits hit you'll have more or less forgotten about them thanks to some very energetic moments and a fun cast.
James Conway, who also directed Hanger 18 as well as loads of TV work, does a pretty good job behind the camera and gets a lot of out the remote locations used for the shoot (Utah standing in for Colorado with the audience none the wiser). Some moderate gore and nudity earn the film its R-rating but it's the monsters that make this one as interesting and screwy as it is. The 'Boogens' look more like strange turtles than anything else and while they obviously have the ability to bite and kill, they're not particularly threatening looking. This doesn't stop the cast from reacting the way you'd expect them to - in sheer terror - but it makes for some comical moments and also gives the film a lot of quirky charm and character.
Conway isn't reinventing the wheel with The Boogens and in fact, bloodshed and nudity aside, the movie often feels like a throwback to the monster movies of the fifties and sixties that obviously inspired it. Stephen King raved about the movie when it came out (he was quoted on the original VHS release and is quoted again on the packaging for this DVD), which probably went a long way towards generating some interest in the movie when it was first released just as it did the first Evil Dead movie. The performances aren't much to write home about but all involved do fine with the material with Rebecca Balding actually turning in a performance that is memorable enough and occasionally sympathetic as well. All in all, the movie holds up well and is well worth revisiting for fans of monster movies and eighties horror.
The Boogans arrives on DVD in 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen in a transfer that doesn't seem to have been given much in the way of a proper restoration. Mild print damage is present throughout in the form of a few small scratches and some minor white specks here and there, but the colors look decent, if only occasionally slightly faded. Black levels aren't bad, flesh tones look decent enough and detail is fine when you consider the age and modest budget of the film. Shadow detail can be problematic but this looks to have been an issue with the photography rather than with the transfer while contrast looks decent throughout. Does the movie look amazing on DVD? No, but it looks decent.
The only audio option for the feature is an English language Dolby Digital Mono track, there are no alternate language options provided nor are there any subtitles or closed captions present. Range is obviously limited by the source material here but the dialogue is easy enough to understand and to follow while the levels seem properly balanced. Some occasional but very minor hiss can be heard here and there if you're listening for it, but odds are that you won't be and as such, probably won't notice it.
Aside from static menus and chapter selection, the only extra on the disc is a commentary track with director James Conway and writer David O'Malley who are joined by actress Rebecca Balding and moderator Jeff McKay. This is a solid track and one which the film's cult following will appreciate as it offers up some interesting stories about the locations used in the film, in addition to the effects work, how and why Republic Pictures wound up releasing this on videotape during the VHS boom years, the nudity in the film and more. It's a track that is both active and informative and McKay does a good job of keeping all involved engaged in the discussion and the end result is a pretty fun listen. The trailer for the film is conspicuously absent, unfortunately, but given Olive Films' aversion to extras, the fact that the commentary is here will be a nice surprise for some.
The Boogens is a kick. It's a fun monster movie through and through, the kind that horror fans enjoy and the kind which age surprisingly well. The effects are decent, the performances are fine and the movie has enough of a zany spirit running throughout that you can't help but have a good time with it. Olive Films' DVD is long overdue, and while it isn't loaded with the kind of extras that hardcore horror fans crave, it does at least contain a decent commentary track and offer up the film in fairly good shape. As such, it comes recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.