Mary Dauterman’s Booger is a deft look at what grief can do to someone. A heartbreaking and surprisingly sympathetic study, this is an excellent body horror that lingers with you.
After the death of her best friend, Izzy, Anna (Grace Glowicki) focuses all her attention on Booger, the stray cat which she and Izzy took in. When Booger bites her, she begins to undergo a strange transformation.
If you are thinking what I was thinking when you read that synopsis, then congrats, you win today, as Booger definitely goes down the route you are thinking. It is an utter joy to watch as it does. What writer-director Mary Dauterman does so well with her film is that it allows for the moments of body horror to shine, coughing up ever-increasing hairballs, for example, while keeping a strong focus on Anna’s mental health descent.
As said, while the selling point of Booger may be that transformation concept, it is actually the theme of the loss of a close one where it excels. Anna is struggling with losing her best friend and is spiralling. With in her opinion, most of those around her are little to no help. She had one living connection with Izzy, and that was that little black cat. So, when that cat also leaves her, what does she have left?
Grace Glowicki does excellent work in a role that could easily fall on its face. She commits wholly to what is happening to her whilst also being completely different from the one we see in old videos. She is subdued and distanced around everyone after Izzy’s death, whereas in that footage, she looks alive and present. The shell of what is left of Anna is struggling, and no one is doing anything about it. When it comes to her slow and inevitable transformation, she does some fantastic work. The way she squints her eyes as a cat would at specific objects and the little twitches all win you over in her performance. Her energy carries the film at times with her inert ability to immerse herself with the character and situation shining brightly through.
Marcia DeBonis as Izzy’s mum, Joyce, breaks your heart. She needs comfort and companionship from Anna so desperately that you ache for her. When someone goes through such a tough loss, you need to find some compassion from somewhere. Otherwise, you become like Anna, falling into an abyss of your own mind. They are both after the same thing but in different ways. Anna needs that whole Izzy-filled hole in her life to be filled by Booger, and Joyce sees Anna as a second daughter. She is damn well terrified of losing Anna too.
Mary Dauterman shows remarkable restraint in not allowing the body horror aspect of Booger to saturate the main story. It would be sorely tempting to allow those moments that will make the audience squirm to overpower the entire film. However, Dauterman’s strength is how smart she is as a writer. All of The more horrific moments are used to highlight the people we become when we encounter a devastating loss. We can become meaner, less interested and withdrawn from those around us. We are not ourselves, and so that shell that is left of us at that time hardens in one way or another for a little bit. It’s natural; our minds are trying to protect us, but soon enough, everyone around you will notice.
There is a gentleness present in between all of the wildness that takes you by surprise. Dauterman has a deft hand at guiding her audience through Anna’s story and steers us through those moments many of us will have encountered in our lives after losing someone in a wonderfully creative way. Booger shows us at our self-destructive worst, but also, thanks to those around Anna and Anna herself by the film’s end, our hopeful best.
The Brooklyn Horror Film Festival runs from October 12th – 19th. For more information click here.
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