The 2000 documentary The American Nightmare provided a cogent analysis of the great horror films of the 1960s and 1970s, which went a step past the strung-together clips and cheeky commentary of earlier horror-compilation efforts such as Terror in the Aisles. Boogeymen, however, retreats in the opposite direction, reducing a mystifyingly broad range of films into the lowest common denominator of trading cards and role playing. Archetypal boogeymen have often been at the heart of the horror film, from Dracula and
Frankenstein in the 1930s to Jason and Freddy in the 1980s. But by excising a "boogeyman" from so many disparate films, this compilation effectively ignores the real nuts and bolts of suspense and horror: emotional tone, visual palette, vivid writing, and even effective production design. Of course, horror, fantasy, and sci-fi fans often set themselves up for this kind of focus-grouped sludge by indiscriminately consuming pale imitations of pale imitations instead of cherry-picking the best from the genres they love. Still, there's something dispiriting about seeing as complex a psychological portrait as Norman Bates reduced to a few short chunks of gothic-lettered exposition and Psycho's already ubiquitous penultimate scene. Plenty of less august directors than Alfred Hitchcock have used the tropes of the slasher film to expose political and emotional truths, and it's often the least "respectable" efforts that provoke the most enduring fascination. But with the exception of The Guardian and The Ugly, two little-known gems, Boogeymen goes for a mixture of obvious crowd-pleasers and cheap independent efforts -- the latter presumably because the rights were cheaper. A great documentary could easily be produced about the cinematic characters who have populated our nightmares over the years, but this viewpoint-free compendium certainly isn't it.