‘Bad Girl Boogey’ Is An Effective Punk Rock Horror Show [Review]

Alice Maio Mackay Bad Girl Boogey

What is it about Samhain that stirs up trouble in the minds of impressionable youngsters? In horror films, even those not specifically titled Halloween, we often see teenagers tempt fate time and again by summoning powers beyond their comprehension out of…boredom? Morbid curiosity? Whatever the case, it never turns out right. The things that arise from the center of a pentagram adorned with candles are never friendly. And before the last of you can look at the other with the same incredulous expression to confirm that you, in fact, are experiencing a supernatural occurrence, you’re beyond toast. The premise of “fuck around and find out” is familiar in this sphere but it never gets old. Writer/director Alice Maio Mackay understands this premise well and, alongside her co-writer Ben Pahl Robinson, she proves the vitality of the supernatural slasher with the immensely topical Bad Girl Boogey.

The film is a cross-generational narrative centered on an old theater mask—cursed by Nazi occultists—that is passed down to killers who carry on its wicked legacy. The film’s prologue is set during a ritual on Halloween where a group of teens is butchered by one of their own, who is possessed by the mask. Almost two decades later, when 16-year-old Angel (Lisa Fanto) encounters the newest iteration of the killer herself, she and her friend Dario (Iris Mcerlean) investigate the killer’s patterns to find an increasing threat to their queer community.

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What makes Bad Girl Boogey a stellar horror experience is the brashness of its cast. When we first meet Angel, Dario, and Lila (Prudence Cassar), their presence fills the frame with the same snotty attitude as characters in a Gregg Araki film. It’s an introduction that you only get when young queer people are at the helm of a horror project, which immediately signals to a young audience that this is their space and these are their people. For those of us whose appendages click when we get up out of bed every morning, the vibe is a welcome throwback to the kinds of slashers that critically lived in the shadow of the Scream films but are actually more substantial on their own.

And for a film about legacy, invoking periods of millennial and Gen-X horror perfectly illustrates the stakes at hand. We learn from the jump that Angel’s mother was a victim of the cursed mask killer and that her life as a closeted lesbian was a motivating factor in her murder. As Angel’s schoolmates suffer the same end, it becomes clear to her that whatever malevolent force is behind these killings cannot be met with indifference. Nor can she rely on the law to keep her friends safe.

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Maio Mackay and Pahl Robinson’s cineliterate approach to the script nods to the films and icons that have paved the road for Bad Girl Boogey to exist. But the real heart is in the shared struggle with generations of queer artists who have used horror as an outlet to protest the violence directed at, and in many cases legislated towards, queer communities at large.

Bad Girl Boogey is thematically consistent with the filmmakers’ last outing, So Vam, in that it challenges the tenets of its subgenre by facing its grotesque nature head-on. So Vam takes a coven of misfit vampires and pits them against abusers, including their own predatory elder. This film uses supernatural slasher tropes to interrogate the societal codes that leave queer people vulnerable to attacks. Apathy, bigotry, and entitlement are continuous uphill battles for the characters in the film and in reality.

Maio Mackay and Pahl Robinson don’t mince words in their script. Many of Angel and Dario’s lines can be read as responses to the absurdity of the narrative and our own world. Bill Moseley’s voice-over role as a punk DJ is also a pleasant surprise for horror fans. His blend of sardonic humor and plain-spoken truths about the murders resonate as the characters attempt to grasp the totality of their situation. The film also boldly (and correctly) draws parallels between the fascistic rhetoric that keeps queer people in danger and the literal Nazis responsible for giving the cursed mask its power. In a milieu where slasher films are content with being disingenuous nostalgia bait, Bad Girl Boogey spits in the face of decorum and exudes a no-fucks-given punk rock flare.

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It’s refreshing to see a film that keeps the nasty spirit of its progenitors alive. Bad Girl Boogey is appropriately harsh and the death sequences not only reflect real-world atrocities, but are also shot with an exquisite eye for the kind of mean-spirited, low-budget terrors from which this subgenre was forged.

Like this year’s Saint Drogo, Bad Girl Boogey is unafraid to take its viewers to the traumatic underbelly of the queer experience in a hostile world. Parts of the film are hallucinogenic, plunging the audience into a waking nightmare where the same brutal events play out over and over. After one too many murders, life for these characters begins to feel numb and afflicted with the dread that they could be next on the chopping block. But in its most dire moments, Bad Girl Boogey still finds a way to empower its protagonists through action. It’s a popcorn movie with a soul that isn’t afraid to pin the monster down and stab it in the heart.



Bad Girl Boogey is a popcorn movie with a soul that isn’t afraid to pin the monster down and stab it in the heart



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