Have you ever received a chain letter that warned of something bad that would result if you didn’t pass the letter on to others? That is precisely what is behind director Luke Jaden’s 2019 film ,Boo!
Set in modern-day Detroit on Halloween night, the film centers around a troubled family that receives a chain letter, and the ensuing consequences of the decision made on what to do about that letter.
The very religious father (Rob Zabrecky), a ‘Jesus Freak’ of sorts, makes it clear early on that he has certain standards and practices that he expects from his family (for instance, not allowing participation in Halloween because of its pagan roots). The problem is that the rest of the family doesn’t really seem to be believers, and so there is pushback to his ‘bible thumping’ from the family right from the start.
Familiar family dynamics of rebellious teenagers and overbearing parents are nothing new, but the writer works in some darker subject matter here to punch up the drama. An alcoholic mother, Elyse (Jill Marie Jones), her pre-college daughter, Morgan (Aurora Perrineau) and young son, Caleb (Jaden Piner) round out the small cast of main characters. There are two other characters involved in the story, one of which portrays a man whom back in the 80’s did not heed the warning to pass on the letter (which did not end well for him, as well as others), and the young boyfriend of Morgan (played by Charlie Palmer Rothwell), Ashton.
As the events of Halloween night further unfold, each character becomes isolated from the rest of the family for different reasons. All the while, each is experiencing something sinister and specific to each of their life experiences.
This is partly used to further the narrative of the backstory without having to be too overt with exposition to explain, and also to push the plot of the unpassed chain letter consequences. The only problem with that is the writer seems to have not been able to successfully conjure up a regret for young Caleb, so his ‘interactions’ seem quite different to those of his sibling and parents.
An unfortunate inclusion in the film was the constant cigarette smoking of all of the characters except for young Jaden. I should point out that I actually am a smoker, but even I found it incredibly distracting how many scenes seem to showcase a lit cigarette.
That aside, there were many moments that worked well here for me. A particular sequence wherein we see a bedsheet seemingly comes to life really stands out. Its a genuinely creepy moment that I have honestly not felt watching a horror film in a very, very long time. This was much more successful at creeping me out than the numerous attempts to scare the audience with predictable jump scares. Many that were so obviously queued by camera work and accompanying music that you may as well have flashed “JUMP SCARE coming in 3..2..1..” across the screen. Most of the practical effects were strong on screen. Unfortunately, the filmmakers resorted to CGI in some instances and that is often what breaks down the fourth wall for me.
Although the actors do a serviceable job in their portrayals, I did feel that both the mother and her husband were miscast. The sister and brother relationship feels fleshed out and tangible, with the two characters sharing similar circumstances of abandonment as a result of the mother’s substance abuse. The parents, on the other hand, seem to be distant in a way that isn’t by design, i.e. not solely how they were written. I never felt they were connected in any real way. They don’t seem to be in love, now or in the past, and that took away my ability to feel fully submersed in the story.
Boo! is definitely worth watching, has a wonderful sepia-toned 80’s flashback opening sequence, and the score throughout was another enjoyable aspect for me. Definitely check it out.