"Bad Girl Boogey"
review by Diablo Joe
"Bad Girl Boogey"
Australian filmmaker Alice Maio Mackay is a bit of a phenom. At 16, she made her first feature film, “So Vam,” an enjoyable LGBTQ-centric vampire flick that was rough-around-the-edges but still filled with so much nascent skill and promise that it was almost too good to be true. Not one to rest on any laurels, Mackay has already given us her sophomore feature, “Bad Girl Boogey,” an effort demonstrating growth and an eagerness to stretch and expand her filmmaking chops, even if it doesn’t quite nail the charm of her debut.
Working again with writing partner Ben Pahl Robinson, Mackay’s film centers around a demonic cursed mask that possesses its wearer, turning them into vicious, brutal killers. When young Angel’s friend falls victim to its murderous craving, Angel must uncover its secret before the mask brings death to all around her.
The growth shown since “So Vam” is quite impressive. That film was a winner in its enthusiasm and heart more than its overall polish. Gone is that movie’s, at times, awkward staging—especially during its action scenes—and the performances, while earnest, sometimes belied the inexperience of its ensemble. “Bad Girl Boogey” is a far more confident work, showing Mackay’s dedication to improving her craft.
One place Mackay has always shown skill from the start is in dealing with her cast. Here she is fortunate to have as her lead the talented Lisa Fanto. Fanto’s Angel is equally tough and vulnerable. She convincingly portrays a teen who may be an outcast and a misfit but still stands loyal to the people she cares about. Mackay and Robinson have created a terrific role that Fanto plays with heart and intelligence. A returning player from “So Vam,” is Iris Mcerlean, as Angel’s best fried Dario, giving a performance heads and shoulders over their role in that earlier movie . Here they are empathetic, nuanced, and potent. Also returning from “So Vam” is Chris Asimos as this that guy every high school has who creepily hangs around way after graduation, still trying to charm the girls. He’s simultaneously unctuous and sympathetically misunderstood. New to Mackay’s ensemble and without any redeeming quality to his character is Toshiro Glenn as a vicious school bully who goes from threatening to flat-out terrifying. And a fun treat is horror-fav Bill Mosley providing the voice cameo as a weary, been-there radio DJ.
Cinematographer Aaron Schuppan is another returning collaborator from Mackay’s “So Vam,” but here he’s eschewed that film’s neon club-going vibrancy for a much grittier look that ably suits the picture and its horror. The film's energy is amped and assisted by some great song choices (including a terrific Aussie group named Alter Boy) and everything from its slasher scenes to its quieter, more poignant moments are underpinned by a solid score by Alexander Taylor.
If there is any real weakness to “Bad Girl Boogey,” it’s in Mackay and Robinson’s script. While the pair excel at creating sympathetic and believable characters, their handling of the film’s structure is less skillfully realized. It never quite hits the dynamic beats in a way that the story yearns for, and the film’s sense of pacing is indistinct, making it sometimes difficult for the audience to grasp the time frame of events. And when it comes to the story behind the mask, Mackay and Robinson commit that cardinal sin of telling rather than showing. Not only is this sloppy storytelling, but it unintentionally blunts the evil of the mask’s murderous homophobia.
With word of two more upcoming features on the way, Alice Maio Mackay (and Ben Pahl Robinson) certainly don’t seem to be doing anything but plunging forward with enthusiasm and purpose. “So Vam” showed us a fresh voice that demanded to be heard. As a woman filmmaker, as a trans filmmaker, and as a filmmaker so young, Mackay shows us that, with “Bad Girl Boogey,” she is not about to squander her chance to improve art or her message. We’re here to listen and enjoy.
This devil of a filmmaker gives “Bad Girl Boogey” 3 out of 5 imps.
This devil of a reviewer gives “Peppergrass” 3 out of 5 imps