By weird coincidence, I came across another movie on the Syfy channel that deals with the Cain and Abel story, though it has a much more interesting premise than Husk. Boogeyman is a Scifi Pictures Original released just this year, not the 2005 film. The story begins with a group of kids playing football outside of the house of a hermit named Skinner. Three of the kids, a couple of high schoolers named Aaron and Isaac and a middle schooler named Jake, go inside Skinner’s house to find Jake’s cellphone; Aaron was the jerkface who threw the cellphone through the attic window. Jake accidentally released an ancient monster from the attic and Skinner, the creature’s keeper, is killed by the creature before he can put it back in chains. When the creature slaughters a group of teens in the woods and later one of Skinner’s neighbors, two members of the local police, Michael, who is Isaac’s and Jake’s father, and his partner/girlfriend Rebecca investigate the murders. Rebecca turns out to be Skinner’s daughter and she seeks help from her Uncle Franklin to find out a way to destroy the monster. Toward the end, after the monster kidnaps Jake, Franklin tells our heroes that the monster is Cain, who is cursed to walk the earth for killing his brother Abel. Cain’s guilt makes him seek a new brother, a new keeper, and we learn that Skinner was just one in a long line of keepers. Now Cain seeks to mark Jake and make himself Jake’s responsibility.
Although I’ve seen vampirism described as the curse of Cain in a book or a movie, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Cain walking around killing people. It’s an interesting concept, but we don’t find out that the monster is supposed to be Cain until late in the movie, which leaves little room to explore the idea and things are left unexplained. For instance, we find out that Cain has a weakness to copper, which previous keepers used to keep Cain at bay, but we never learn why copper hurts him. However, the two ideas I would liked to have developed most are the relationship between keeper and Cain and the reason why Cain is compelled to choose a keeper. The movie is unclear as to whether Cain is compelled by his curse to try and find a new brother/keeper or whether he feels some remorse for murdering his brother that compels him to find a new brother/keeper. The idea that he might feel remorse is interesting, but it would require a slower movie and a more emotive Cain to pull off. This ties in with the relationship between Cain and the keeper he’s choosing. Is he choosing someone like Abel, someone who’s a good brother, or is he choosing someone who will merely restrain him? Skinner is supposed to have fed Cain with animals from the forest and Cain’s hunger was insatiable. Clearly Cain’s bloodlust wasn’t sated centuries ago when he first killed his brother, which suggests the keeper’s goal is to keep Cain chained and fed so he doesn’t go on a rampage. I think Cain would have been a less one-dimensional monster if they had fleshed him out more.
There are also a couple of sources of dramatic tension that could have been expanded upon. The relationship between Michael and Rebecca is complicated by Michael’s kids and the police chief. The kids, Isaac in particular, are uncomfortable with the idea of their dad dating Rebecca. We get a brief scene where Rebecca scolds Isaac for breaking into Skinner’s house and he responds less than courteously, but that’s really the extent of their interaction. I would have liked to have seen Rebecca express some desire to connect with the kids or have some discomfort about taking on the maternal role; Isaac or even Jake could express their fears that she’s usurping their mother’s spot. Speaking of which, Michael has a flashback to his wife’s death and the image saddens him, but it’s never referred to again, not even a hint that his feelings for his wife might impinge upon his current relationship wit Rebecca. The police chief is disapproving of their relationship as well, but she seems more concerned about mixing work and play, so to speak. Michael and Rebecca certainly ignore her warnings and continue to be partners and lovers, but there’s no real confrontation between the couple and the police chief. Unfortunately, both conflicts are resolved with Cain. Cain kills the police chief, ruining Michael and Rebecca’s chance to stand up to the chief, and Rebecca lets Cain mark her, saving Jake from being forced into a reclusive life tending to an ancient monster. The romantic subplot that we might have expected to end predictably in marriage, ends in Rebecca becoming Cain’s keeper; I’m not sure whether that’s disappointing or awesome.
The other major source of dramatic tension is conflict between Jake and Isaac and between Isaac and Michael. Isaac’s best friend Aaron picks on Jake and Isaac only half-heartedly apologizes to his younger brother. When Jake doesn’t accept the apology, Isaac tells Jake to man up and stop being such a baby. In a very similar manner, Isaac bemoans the fact that Michael scolded him for fighting the kids who teased him after his mother died. Michael responds by telling his son that he has to toughen up and that words don’t really mean anything. Done properly, this could have been a really heavy and engaging theme. Although I think it’s true that a person should be tough when dealing with tough times, I also consider ‘man up’ to be a facile, bullshit way to express that idea, especially when dealing with children. If someone is having trouble, they need substantial advice and an empathetic response more than they need to be accused of wimpiness or not trying hard enough; not all problems can be solved by will alone. Isaac actually seems to understand that lesson. He calls his father out for not empathizing with him when he was bullied and responds to his dad by saying that words actually can hurt. Michael apologizes, but it doesn’t feel like he learned to empathize with his son. Isaac learns the lesson, but he never gets to apply it and either stick up for his brother or apologize for not sticking up for his brother before. The issue of bullying could have been tackled as well, but it dries up in part because Aaron dies.
There were some genuinely good ideas that they touched on in Boogeyman, but they just didn’t get fleshed out enough to do the story justice; maybe I can convince Syfy to let me write the novelization for Boogeyman to do the story justice. But there were some things that were just perfect. Cain’s face is usually a mask, a brown, desiccated face that looks like a mummy’s. However, Cain’s head periodically turns CGI so that he can contort his face to growl. I don’t know why they thought Cain needed to emote since his mummy-face should be stiff and his only lines are howls, but what are you going to do? This wasn’t the only piece of unnecessary CGI. Inexplicably, there are shots of houses from the outside that look completely unreal. It was hard to put my finger on it, but the houses looked computer-generated and the skies didn’t like they gelled with the house in terms of lighting. I don’t know why Sci Fi Pictures can’t afford to film the outside of real houses for throwaway shots that establish setting, but I’m willing to lend them footage of my house if they want some. And any worthwhile horror movie has to have teens and characters introduced for the sole purpose of killing them. An obnoxious blonde woman living next to the Skinner house is introduced and then dies at the hands of Cain. A group of teens in the woods sits around a campfire drinking beers and passing around a joint. Of course, this spells their doom. The only survivor is an extremely inebriated young man who thought a lesbian was making eyes at him and not the cute young girl sitting next o him; sadly, the lesbian makeout session was ended abruptly by an evil several millennia old. I think that’s one more theme this film could have further explored. Oh well.