Label: Momentum Pictures
Release date: October 23 2006
Running time: 90m
Director: Anthony C. Ferrante
Stars: Trish Coren, Rachel Harland, Jilon Ghai, Happy Mahaney, Shirlene Quigley, Algie Hamilton, Dig Wayne, Dee Wallace Stone.
Produced by David E. Allen (Dog Soldiers) BOO marks the directorial
debut of special make-up and effects artist, Cinescape editor and Fangoria
writer Anthony C. Ferrante.
A group of students decide to spend Halloween in the deserted and supposedly haunted Santa Mira Community Hospital. They soon realise that it is indeed haunted, and find themselves trapped inside by an evil force that controls the lift and always leads them to the dreaded third floor. Along the way they encounter a missing girl, her brother, and an ex-Blaxploitation film actor/cop, who join forces to do battle with the malevolent force that is intent on escaping from its medical prison to wreak havoc outside.
BOO’s release is clearly timed to coincide with Halloween. I assume the director’s purpose was to make a film that consisted of a series of scares with little substance to detract from them. The film’s very title suggests a lack of depth, any meaningful relationship with the story is stripped away to leave a label that could easily apply to a ghost-train ride at Blackpool’s Pleasure Beach as to a film; a mechanical delivery of shocks if you like. Another film that famously used this minimal approach to film titling was the sadly influential “post-modern” slasher SCREAM (1996, d. Wes Craven).
Now, to be fair, Wes Craven was instrumental in instigating what would probably become the greatest decade in horror cinema, the 1970’s. His film LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972), aside from its clumsy comedy inserts, still has the power to disturb, and continues to be censored in the UK. Craven’s second best film, THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977), has recently been remade. On the down side, SCREAM and its imitators helped define the 1990’s as the most forgettable decade in horror film history. At the time critics loved throwing around the term “post-modern” when discussing these films. Pastiche, parody, and nostalgia were all the rage. The successful horror film formula became a recycling of earlier genres and styles into new packaging. But the critics forgot that in-jokes and knowledge of film history are only a small aspect of postmodernism; which also includes ideas of gender and identity, for instance. Italian directors like Dario Argento have played around with these issues for years. In the USA, THE HOWLING (1981, d. Joe Dante) pre-empted SCREAM by 15 years with its knowing references to horror film history.
THE HOWLING was a great werewolf film, and also a comment on a violent society and the media. The film features scenes similar to DAWN OF THE DEAD involving camera crews and TV personnel. Porno reels are juxtaposed with “Mondo” style news footage. The film’s most unsettling sequence features Dee Wallace menaced by a werewolf whilst being forced to watch a "snuff" film. THE HOWLING uses its references to other films, and the knowledge of werewolves gained by the protagonists via the media, in a similar way that SCREAM would do fifteen years later with the slasher genre. It is no coincidence that BOO features Dee Wallace Stone in a cameo as a nurse; she starred in both THE HILLS HAVE EYES and THE HOWLING.
The first scene in BOO is a direct lift from the opening of SCREAM – it serves no real purpose, and merely suggests that the film is about a decade too late. The primary influence for BOO is clearly Brad Anderson’s excellent SESSION 9 (2001). There are also touches of THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1999, d. William Malone), THE EYE (2002, d. Oxide & Danny Pang), and any other “teenagers in a haunted house” scenario that you care to recall, my own favourite being HELL NIGHT (1981, d. Tom DeSimone).
As in SESSION 9 the real star of BOO is the abandoned hospital, and to his credit, the director exploits this fully to create a creepy atmosphere. The film is awash with gore, some of which recalls the “melt movies” of the 1980’s - remember director Anthony C. Ferrante (NECRONOMICON and THE DENTIST) worked for Fangoria; the special-effects obsessed horror film magazine. There is bodily possession, some rotting corpses, the ubiquitous ghostly little girl, and a claustrophobic elevator. We are treated to a rather unnerving clown, and a bizarre sequence involving a dog that seems to have strayed in from John Carpenter’s THE THING, but both events have no connection to the rather ludicrous script. A quick scare is no match for a lingering feeling of disturbance. I remember when the term “eco-horror” was used to label horror films with ecological implications; now the term could be re-used for films that are the most proficient at re-cycling.
BOO is an ideal film for a house full of rowdy teenagers at a Halloween party, no need to concentrate on distractions like a decent script or acting, just get stuck into a crate of beer and be scared. It says “BOO” on the box, and that’s exactly what you get.
Filmmakers' audio commentary
The Making of Boo featurette
Inside the Special Effects of Boo featurette
Intensive Scare – Tales of the Linda Vista Hospital
Deleted, alternate and extended scenes with optional audio commentary
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
English subtitles for the hard of hearing