My parents were pretty prodigious in the movies they allowed me to watch as a kid, but they didn’t let me watch any blood-and-guts horror films as a child. Sure, I watched The Neverending Story, The Dark Crystal, The Last Starfighter and plenty of other mature kids movies during my formative years, but none of those movies were consistently frightening. They just had scary elements scattered throughout them.
I think that’s why the scariest movie villain to me isn’t Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees. Those guys just come across as silly to me. No, the most horrifying figure I would never want to meet in a dark basement is a man named Mr. Boogedy.
Mr. Boogedy was an episode of Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color that appeared during its 30th season in 1986. And I’m going to explain why it scared me as a child more than any other film.
The Buildup to Boogedy
The reason Mr. Boogedy is such a great villain is because the buildup to finally seeing him is so well done. At first we’re confronted with a scary house with faulty lights so everything is drenched in darkness most of the time. At one point we see the ominous outline of a door that leads to a room containing a sight so terrifying that it makes a character pass out just by gazing upon it. We don’t get to see what she saw, but we’re convinced we don’t want to ever see it.
And we hear several characters describe Mr. Boogedy in detail. He’s portrayed as a mean man who is horribly disfigured and evil to his core. He sold his soul to the devil for a cloak that lets him perform dark magic. And what does he do with that magic? Why, steal a little boy and hold him hostage to force the boy’s mother to marry him. He and the boy and mother end up in a stalemate for 300 years, long after they’ve all become ghosts.
The more I hear about Mr. Boogedy, the more I dread the final confrontation with him. But before I get to that, I’ll explain a few other things that make this movie so fantastic.
The story of Mr. Boogedy involves a family moving into a haunted house. I love the fact that the father is a traveling gag salesman. In the first half of the film every time he finds himself in a scary situation he finds a way to relieve the tension with his unique brand of humor. He is constantly looking for logical explanations for the supernatural things he and his family witness. I know that’s a common horror movie trope, but Mr. Boogedy puts a fun twist on it. The dad thinks everything is a gag, so he is more impressed than scared when he sees things that have everyone else spooked.
He and his sons also have a habit of playing practical jokes on each other, so it becomes difficult to tell fact from fiction. His catchphrase is, “Just kidding,” which he uses to make sure his family doesn’t have a heart attack when he pranks them. That has a great payoff at the very end of the film.
Why Is the Dad So Familiar?
On my most recent viewing of this film, I discovered something unsettling. The dad has an extremely memorable face and demeanor. I had struggled to remember where else I had seen him until It suddenly dawned on me. Actor Richard Masur also appeared in the 1990 TV movie of Stephen King’s It. He plays Stanley Uris, the happily married man who shockingly kills himself in a bathtub to avoid having to face his childhood fears again.
It is one of my favorite books, and the TV movie, despite its flaws, captures a lot of the terror from the book. Stanley’s death is handled particularly well. I hadn’t realized why it affected me so much until just a few days ago when I made this connection between Mr. Boogedy and It.
One of my childhood fears was having someone take me away from my parents. The idea of someone chasing me and forcing me to never see the people I loved terrified me and is one of the most vivid nightmares I’ve ever had.
There’s a scene late in Mr. Boogedy when the little ghost boy talks to the two sons in a dark basement. He warns them that Mr. Boogedy is coming for them and they better run because if he gets them, he’ll never let them go back to their family again. And at the same time, the camera lets us see through Mr. Boogedy’s eyes and hear his haggard breath. I have to admit, that moment still scares the heck out of me. The boys manage to escape too easily, which deflates the tension, but that’s okay because the tense few seconds building up to their escape are what really stayed with me.
A Few Minor Flaws
Mr. Boogedy is a Disney TV movie, so I know I shouldn’t expect a lot from it. But still, for such an amazing setup, it does have a few flaws that I need to address. After building up the fact that the dad is skeptical of all the scary things he witnesses and everything that his kids try to warn him about, he turns into a believer awfully quick. His wife sees the ghost of the little boy’s mother and then tells her family about it. What does the dad say? “Okay, honey, let’s go get rid of Mr. Boogedy,” or something to that effect.
I thought it would’ve taken a lot more to finally convince him, especially when he didn’t even seem to trust his own two eyes. Part of me is glad that he believed his wife because if he hadn’t done that then he easily could have become annoying. But his motivation for believing her could have been explained better.
Also, there’s the final confrontation with Mr. Boogedy himself. As I said earlier, the suspenseful buildup to his appearance is absolutely amazing. And when he finally shows up he looks the part of a murderous maniac in league with Lucifer.
He shouts, “BOOGEDY!” as he shoots lightning out of his fingertips at the family. He also fires at objects and brings them to life. At first it’s scary, but then we quickly discover that he’s not really hurting anyone. He’s just kind of annoying them and threatening them. But his powers lack the ability to maim or kill anyone. And in the end, he’s defeated by his own magic as a vacuum cleaner he had possessed sucks up his cloak and makes him disappear, screaming the whole way.
I suppose this could be quite clever, actually. Evil looks awfully threatening and dangerous until someone stands up to it. Then it crumbles as soon as it’s stripped of its ill-gotten power and authority. Wow. Maybe Mr. Boogedy is a really deep, philosophical film masquerading as a humorous horror movie.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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