''Boogeyman" is a horror film whose only scare is that it was made at all. Why it exists is no mystery: People like stupid horror movies, if not in movie theaters, then on DVD. And the people who make them like to bask in the profits. But as with so many stupid horror movies in these post-''Scream" times, this one is at such a creative loss that all it can do is make its audience feel duped for having purchased a ticket.
People will surely come expecting fright, only to realize the film consists of 90 minutes of Barry Watson lurching through the sort of big, rural, gothic, empty house you get only in stupid horror films. They will leave having no idea why.
Watson plays Tim, and when he was young, he had that problem many children have: Did daddy leave mommy, or did the boogeyman get him? If all Dad did was start a new family, then ''Boogeyman" becomes an hourlong drama on the WB. But since ''Boogeyman" is a stupid horror movie, then a large, hard-to-see, digitally manufactured creature that doesn't materialize until the last five minutes must have something to do with it.
All grown up, Tim is a mess. He has dreams that confuse a corpse-like vision of his soon-to-be-dead mother with his soon-to-be-missing girlfriend. After his mother's death and funeral, Tim takes a doctor's advice and heads to his childhood home (his primal scene), where he's reunited, naturally, with a girl from his childhood. (For some reason, she happens to be on the property, freshly tossed from her horse.)
Because the movie is a fraud, none of what I've just described has any bearing on what actually happens in ''Boogeyman." The filmmakers don't seem to care about Tim's point of view, leaving us stranded in ambiguity: Are those pale children surrounding him real or from Thunderdome? Meanwhile, the camera operator sprints and flies about the house, the sound folks make all kinds of shrill noises, and the editor juliennes every scene so that anything that might resemble something no longer does: Ceci, n'est pas un movie. The finale is both a shrug and a slap in the face: Is that all there is?
Like ''Wrong Turn," ''Them," ''Final Destination 2," and the current ''White Noise" and ''Afraid of the Dark" -- to name only a few -- ''Boogeyman" is impatient, cynical, almost intentionally incompetent, and built on bad film-school habits: camerawork that erodes an already anorexic story until, alas, there are no bones upon which to place any meat. The shame is that the folks at Ghost House Pictures and Screen Gems, the film's producers, have made a movie that exploitatively and criminally insults an already diminished genre, not for our entertainment but for theirs.
Three people were needed to write ''Boogeyman," a number that makes sense only if one person typed while the other two couriered pages to the studio. One of them did come up with a useful exchange, however. When Tim tells a little girl he finds hidden in his tool shed that counting to five alleviates fears, she asks, ''What happens when you get to six?" That's simple. You hurl candy at the screen and pray no one responsible for this movie gets to make another one.
Wesley Morris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.