My Misspent Youth In Films...
Bride of Boogedy
Directed by: Oz Scott
Starring: Richard Masur, Mimi Kennedy, Tammy Lauren
Released: April 12, 1987
What I Thought Then
We taped this off The Disney Sunday Movie and watched it often. It's a feature-length sequel to a short film called Mr. Boogedy that we also watched quite a bit, although I definitely preferred the sequel. I didn't retain the plot, but a handful of jokes stayed with me. "It's Jack the Ripper--and Mrs. Ripper!" I remember it fondly enough that I looked for it explicitly when Disney+ announced some of the legacy titles they would be featuring.
What I Think Now
It's still pretty fun. Richard Masur is Carlton Davis and his family runs a store selling novelties and gags. In Mr. Boogedy, the family moves to a new house in New England to start a branch there, only to learn that their house is haunted by an old pilgrim who made a deal with the devil for a magical cloak in order to win over the beautiful Widow Marion, whose spirit is now trapped in the house along with that of her son Jonathan. The Davises manage to part Boogedy from his magical cloak and free Marion and Jonathan's spirits. In the sequel, Boogedy is back and separated from his cloak (for now), but still causing mischief. Meanwhile the Davises are mired in local politics, having run afoul of Tom Lynch, a busybody played by Eugene Levy (Oh, hey, Eugene Levy is in this!) who runs a general store and doesn't appreciate the competition. Halloween-related hijinks ensue.
This is, at its heart, a family film that's playing at being scary. That's a hard line to walk--I mean, it's an easy thing to do badly, but it's hard to walk that line while also being a genuinely entertaining film. And the secret sauce that makes the whole dish come together is the fact that the Davises are all pranksters by trade and by disposition. They are constantly playing practical jokes on each other, which seems like it would get tiresome, but it feels good-natured throughout, thanks in large part to the actors who really sell the family dynamic. The oldest daughter Jennifer (originally Kristy Swanson, but here recast as Tammy Lauren--oh, hey, Kristy Swanson's in this!) can't stand it because she's a teenager and she gets irritated by her little brothers, the older of whom is played in both installments by a young David Faustino. The brothers have a very convincing camaraderie. And Masur and his wife Eloise, played by Mimi Kennedy, legitimately sell the idea that this is a family who all love each other and, more than anything else, love to laugh together.
All of this gives the film a little more license to get away with horror movie shenanigans without venturing into territory that would frighten children--allowing it to be spooky without ever being scary. When the toaster starts acting weird and poltergeisty, the kids just assume their dad is playing a joke on them. The audience knows that something supernatural is going on, but since the characters aren't frightened, it's not frightening. They're almost pulling back the curtain just a little, letting you know that they know that you know that none of this is real. And even when frightening plot turns happen, how scared can you really get when there's a patina of silliness over everything? When a wax statue of Jack the Ripper comes to life, he does so while wearing clown gloves and oversized sunglasses. This is a movie that prominently features grapefruit goggles that come with a tiny squeegee. This is a movie with a gravedigger named Lazarus played by Victor Schiavelli! All of that goofiness blunts the horror edges, so that at various points Mr. Boogedy possesses Carlton, kidnaps Eloise, and tries to drag Jennifer away, and while it's never scary, you also can believe that the characters are scared.
It's not all sunshine and roses, though. (Or, this is a horror movie in New England, so it's not all full moons and maple syrup?) The plot beats are a bit uneven. None of the local politics stuff is that interesting, and Lynch feels like an over-the-top bad guy, even for a movie called Bride of Boogedy. While most of the jokes are great fun, Carlton does suggest forming a "Lynch mob" to go after Lynch, which is a little yikes. The ending is anticlimactic, and while the visual effects are leaps-and-bounds ahead of its predecessor, it still looks and feels like a made-for-TV movie. Still, there's some great banter, some genuinely funny sequences, and an endearing family dynamic at the heart of the film, including some great kid acting.
Yeah, I mean, depending on your tolerance for family fare. It's a teensy bit glurgey, but not overly so. It's pretty entertaining, especially for a TV movie, and at an hour and a half, it's a very watchable length.