Up until Disney added the 1986 made-for-TV movie Mr. Boogedy to their Disney+ lineup, the family horror film was fairly elusive. DVDs of the film sold occasionally on Amazon but were priced steeply (currently listed at over $40 used—and this is after it began streaming). There were versions floating around on YouTube, but the quality was suspect. So watching a good transfer of the movie was something you could only achieve if you really wanted to pay for it. Watching Mr. Boogedy in all its glory is one of the biggest benefits of the streaming service for any ’80s nostalgia buff out there—even if the film itself is way below average.

Originally airing as an episode on The Disney Sunday Movie and a failed pilot by director Oz Scott, Mr. Boogedy follows a standard family-moves-into-haunted-house plot. The Davis family has recently relocated to a small New England town called Lucifer Falls and are greeted to their new home—which looks exactly like a stereotypical haunted house—by the seemingly crazy Neil Witherspoon (John Astin), who warns them about a ghost inside the house named Mr. Boogedy.

The parents, of course, don’t believe in ghosts, but the kids aren’t too sure. Mr. Davis (Richard Masur) is the owner of a practical joke shop called Gag City, which sounds really cool for any fun-loving adolescent boy—until your dad, like Mr. Davis, becomes insufferable and your entire life revolves around pranks. The gags are a fun quirk throughout the film, but only get utilized slightly when it comes to trying to defeat the title character.

There’s a small backstory about Mr. Boogedy (Howard Witt), told via popup book by Mr. Witherspoon—which is a highlight in the film. Previously named William Hanover, Mr. Boogedy was a curmudgeonly pilgrim man in the late 17th century who didn’t appreciate the joviality of all the other pilgrims. However, he desired a woman by the name of Marion (Katherine Kelly Lang). When Marion rejected his advances, William sold his soul to the devil in exchange for a cloak that granted him magical powers. He kidnapped Marion’s young son, Jonathan, and casting his first spell, accidentally destroyed his own home, killing himself, Jonathan, and Marion. Of course, the location of the home lies on the grounds where the Davis’ home currently stands.

There’s a lack of inventiveness in the story construction overall. The villain’s backstory, which admittedly starts off intriguingly well, quickly descends into a lack of creativity as it plods along. The scenes in the movie tend to drag a bit, especially when trying to stretch out the plot. But half of the fun is found in the laughably unstable tone throughout (e.g., the mom picks up a skull and screams, then the daughter says, “Look!” and mom says, “Don’t point”).

We don’t see Mr. Boogedy until literally 6 minutes left in the movie, when his presence could have spiced things up earlier. The filmmakers don’t even try to shoehorn him in prior to the final scene. And then by the time he does get there, he only minorly inconveniences the Davis family, posing no real threat from the audience’s point of view. It doesn’t help that the family members often handle their absolute terror with an inappropriate sense of calm.

Kristy Swanson, who plays the oldest daughter, Jennifer, is one of the bigger names in the cast. She goes on to play the title character in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie in 1992, and all I can think about is how she can’t possibly be a whole 6 years younger here than she is in Buffy.

The 45-minute-long Mr. Boogedy benefits from the bizarre charm that comes with most family horror films, the occasional quirky detail sprinkled in here and there, and the makeup of the Palpatine-looking Boogedy, himself, but doesn’t warrant repeated viewings unless you’re a kid or it’s Halloween time and you’re desperate.

About the Author: Ethan Brehm

Ethan Brehm

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