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You can tell that Boo was written and directed by a true-blue horror geek. It's comprised almost entirely of concepts, characters, and conceits from a dozen other horror flicks. As the movie churned out I found myself thinking "Yep, that's from The Thing. And that other stuff is entirely like Session 9, plus there's a mild slasher vibe mixed with just a dash of Lovecraftian goopiness and a hint of gothic ghostliness. There's the disgustingly creepy sick woman from Pet Sematary! And the lead hottie clearly has a bad case of The Dead Zoneitis. Oh, look, that guy's body just melted."
Inaugural production of the new Graveyard Filmworks production house, Boo marks the feature filmmaking debut of Mr. Anthony Ferrante -- and if that name sounds remotely familiar, then congratulations on being a true blue gorehound. Mr. Ferrante spent several years as a critic and columnist for the horror hound's monthly bible, otherwise known as Fangoria Magazine.
Given free rein to concoct a horror flick of his very own, Ferrante sticks with the "do what you know" angle and puts together a goofy little thriller that's just entertaining enough to forgive its almost shamelessly derivative nature. It's as if the first-time filmmaker just plucked several of his favorite horror moments and flung 'em up on the screen, and glued the chunks together with just enough narrative webbing to tell a meager (yet strangely compelling) story.
In a nutshell: A bunch of teenage dummies decide to spend their Halloween roaming around inside a giant abandoned hospital. Yeah, that old thing.
Inside the hospital are some evil spirits, and when these unkind apparitions come into contact with human dummies, a whole variety of strange things happen. Sometimes we get flashback-story visions of something bleached and unpleasant; occasionally one of the characters will start melting and oozing digits all over the place; there's a scene involving a dead mutant dog that doesn't make a whole lot of sense but it's pretty cool to watch.
Boo has got creepy little girls, pissed-off poltergeists, lots of wet sloppy gore, and more random little ideas than it knows what to do with. The first two-thirds of Boo work a lot better than something this familiar has any real right to, but I suspect that's a product of the director's affection for the genre. Plus the guy really does have a solid eye for the atmospheric shivers. He delivers a few freaky little moments of "long hallway" chills -- as in "what just moved at the end of this massive hallway!?!?!" Those who devour the horror flicks will easily recognize every single one of Ferrante's reference points and inspirations, yet the flick's never greedy enough to be called a rip-off.
And it must be said that the location utilized here, a dingy, decrepit, and rundown hospital, sets a truly unsettling tone. Sure it's not the monumentally unpleasant asylum from Session 9, but the director does some excellent work with a plum location. Sure, sure, some of the young actors' performances are a bit on the ripe side, and yeah, some of the special effects are kinda outlandish (demons explode when shot with a revolver?) -- but Boo also zips forward at a pretty brisk clip and, to be fair, most of the more "splattery" effects are quite enjoyably icky. Plus Boo has a strong and self-aware sense of humor; it's not a Scream-style satire, but the director clearly knows that you know your horror movies.
Before a third act that swiftly devolves into barely-decipherable flashback psychobabble, Boo works as a big steaming bowl of horror stew. It's just the same old meat, potatoes, carrots, and peas you know and love, but it was cooked up by a guy who's clearly aiming to please. One suspects that with a tighter and slightly more unique screenplay, Ferrante could do some excellent stuff. As it stands, Boo is easily a solid enough first effort, and it's something that the loyal horror crowd could offer a fair shake. We're who it was made for, after all.
Video: The anamorphic widescreen transfer looks quite solid, especially considering the low-budget nature of the flick we're watching. No lie; I was actively impressed by this transfer.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0 English. Audio quality is pretty solid, although the dialogue levels skew low in relation to the annoyingly brash sound effects track.
Extras: Three featurettes greet you in the supplemental section: The Making of Boo (16:09), Inside the Special Effects of Boo (10:04), and Intensive Scare: Tales of the Linda Vista Hospital (6:00) each deliver precisely what they promise, and the pieces are well-cut and rather entertaining. My favorite was the third one, though; I'm a sucker for giant haunted hospitals and the sort.
Rounding out the goodies department is a feature-length audio commentary (with writer/director Anthony Ferrante, producers David Allen & Sheri Bryant, and editor Chris Connelly) and a collection of numerous deleted, alternate, and extended scenes, all ten of which can be enjoyed with or without director's commentary.
If Boo is just the result of a lifelong horror geek smearing all his favorite influences into one flick, that's cool. Boo's not among the best horror flicks I've seen this year, but it's actually better than several that played the multiplexes. As a kickoff to Ferrante's career and to Graveyard Filmworks' production slate, I say it's a bloop single from a well-trained rookie. Here's hoping for a solid double off the wall next time around.