“I don’t believe in ghosts”, a skeptical brother tells his sister after he finds her hiding in an abandoned hospital where she had gone with some friends a few days earlier. “Oh, you will”, replies his traumatized sister. And she is soon proved right in Anthony C. Ferrante’s fun, spooky and perfect for Halloween film debut, “Boo!”. Filmed at the incredibly creepy Linda Vista Hospital in Los Angeles, the story is not anything too out of the ordinary. Two college couples, the psychic Jessie (Trish Coren) and her ethically questionable boyfriend, Kevin (Jilon Ghai) as well as Freddy (Josh Holt) who is lusting over the equally questionable Marie (Nicole Rayburn) have a friend, Emmett (Happy Mahaney) go ahead of them to Vista Mira Hospital, which is reportedly haunted, to rig the place to scare the girls as it’s Halloween. While there, Emmett along with his dog Duchess have some scares in store for them that Emmett had nothing to do with.
While this is all going on, Allan (Michael Samluk) gets in touch with his father’s old police partner, Arlo Baines (Dig Wayne), who used to be a blaxploitation action star named “Dynamite Jones” (and shows up in one hilarious scene on a bar’s TV set), to help him find his missing sister Meg (Rachel Melvin) who went missing with some friends when they went exploring at Vista Mira Hospital a few days earlier. All of these characters eventually meet in the creepy old hospital which has some very effective quirks – the electricity dims or flashes on and off, the elevator will ONLY go to the third floor where the mental patients were kept and where a tragedy occurred years ago involving a pedophile named Jacob (M Steven Felty) and his nurse (Dee Wallace Stone). The walls of the hospital bleed, people have a tendency to “melt” and then explode gruesomely or not STAY dead when they should. A skinned and eviscerated dog starts to reanimate itself, as does a long-dead corpse. There is a spooky, ghastly white girl ghost who keeps popping up in a very unnerving manner. And if you don’t like clowns or, like Johnny Depp, are afraid of them, this movie won’t help you get over that at all!
The cinematography by Carl Bartels really captures the eerieness of the real Linda Vista Hospital, much like Brad Anderson’s “Session 9” and Danvers State Mental Institution. The hospital is definitely another character in the film. And the special effects by Kevin Wasner, who also worked on “The Passion of the Christ”, are very nice and gooey-gross but not to the degree of Peter Jackson. But still…chunks of people as they melt is a pretty disgusting effect and done very well. The flashback scenes were shot in a stark blue-whiteness that really makes M. Steven Felty all the scarier as villain Jacob as well as a scene with Jessie and her institutionalized mother which was disturbing. The score is vintage 80s horror movie, amping up many jump scares and the film is loaded with homages to “Halloween”, “Scream”, “The Changeling”, Carpenter’s “The Thing”, “Session 9” and “The Shining”.
“Boo!” is not a perfect film – there are the familiar “duh” moments on the part of some of the characters, especially when it comes to that damn haunted elevator. And the ending was a little bit over the top but the performances were all pretty strong, particularly those of Coren, Ghai, Holt, Felty and Stone. And the ending did leave the possibility of a sequel. Just not on Nurse Russell’s shift.
The DVD is packed with extras including The Making of “Boo!”, Intensive Scare: Tales of the Linda Vista Hospital, The Special Effects of “Boo!”, deleted, alternate and extended scenes with commentary by Director Anthony C. Ferrante and film commentary by Ferrante. I wish the film had not been fullscreen and HAD subtitles but you can’t have everything.
The extras: Intensive Scare was completely about the experiences the cast and crew had while filming at Linda Vista – I expected it to be more about the history of the hospital like on “Session 9″ and the feature on Danvers State Mental Institution. Would have been more enlightening to know the history of the hospital. The Special Effects featurette was interesting, showing how they did all the different effects and that very little CGI was used. The Making of “Boo!” was probably the best as it seemed everyone involved in the film was interviewed and there was a lot of behind-the-scenes footage.