Few filmmakers manage to stand the test of time as legends in their field. Kurasawa. Hitchcock. Spielberg. Perry? Yes, the visionary auteur director/writer/producer/actor Tyler Perry who initially rose to prominence in the community theater scene of Georgia to become one of the most successful independent filmmakers in cinematic history. Of course, for every Walt Disney, we need a Mickey. A mascot that serves as the base for a large scale empire. Enter Mabel “Madea” Simmons, the foul mouthed criminal octogenarian who doesn’t take a single lick of sass from anybody as she screams mispronunciations like “Hallelujer” and “Churldish.” Perry plays Madea in his film and stage productions, along with her fellow AARP card carrying brother Joe and her nephew spineless lawyer nephew Brian. Surely, this would mean that his acting range is off the charts and scenes of him interacting with himself would make Boo! A Madea Halloween just fly by, right? Well that’s the scariest part of this spooky tale… IT FEELS NEVER ENDING!
Our “plot” involves the previously mentioned Brian Simmons dealing with his daughter Tiffany (Diamond White). She’s 17 and wants so badly to go to the local fraternity Halloween party with her friends Rain (Bella Thorne) and Leah (Lexy Panterra). Brian is obviously against such action, but is so intimidated by his bad tempered child that he just sort of folds in on her. Oh, but don’t fret. Brian’s got something up his sleeve. Enter Madea, whom Brian calls from her trick r’ treat misadventures with Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis). After some cajoling and promises of payment, Brian convinces Madea to help him out and make sure Tiffany doesn’t leave the house. Madea – along with Joe, Aunt Bam and their friend Hattie (Patrice Lovely) – all retreat to Brian’s house and spend 20 minutes talking about “ass whooping” children, cursing and smoking weed. Later, their intoxicated brains are given a frighten by Tiffany and her reluctant daughter-of-a-preacherman friend Aday (Liza Koshy) when they tell them about the man who apparently died in this house so they can sneak off. After being duped, Madea and her ragtag group of old friends face off against the frat, ruining their party and setting off a series of spooky revenge scheme pranks that are foiled by and also supported by the local church.
It may seem like I’ve given the entire plot of Boo! A Madea Halloween away for you… and you’d be right. This “story” is only about four or five set pieces long. Except for the details. The excruciating, awful details. Boo! A Madea Halloween very clearly has a low budget aesthetic, much like any given Tyler Perry production. Perry’s films are successful because they spend so little. It’s probably why the best hat Perry wears is producer. He managed to take a joke Chris Rock made in the underrated comedy Top Five and turns it into a four or five joke film. Tyler Perry is a master of budget manipulation and location scouting, given the fact that Boo! A Madea Halloween only takes place in four or five different sets. And how inexpensive is it to not even bothering to pay more than $50 for things like make up, decent special effects or set dressing? Tyler Perry is a master craftsman in getting things done cheaply and quickly.
However, Boo! A Madea Halloween also conclusively proves that Tyler Perry has managed to degrade himself as a filmmaker. The ineptitude here would be acceptable for a first time director. Tyler Perry however is an independent giant, having made enough to form an entire media empire in his home state of Georgia. He probably has enough money and experience time to know how to do something as basic as – say – blocking a scene competently. Most of the blocking is used to see how they can keep the Tyler Perry characters in any given scene on screen as much as possibly. There’s a scene where Joe is lying on a couch talking to Madea, Bam & Hattie and any shot with Madea in the scene has the FAKEST prop legs I’ve seen in a major motion picture in quite some time. I could easily go to my neighbor’s house and cut the legs of their scarecrow Halloween decoration off and give you more convincing prop legs.
Boo! A Madea Halloween doesn’t stop there in terms of cinematic ameature hour material. All of the make up looks like it was applied in thick wet gobs. Joe is basically Tyler Perry in a bad make up appliance with the textural consistency of chunky peanut butter and inflated gloves for hands. There’s a scene where Madea is in profile and three frat bros are talking to her as they feel up her breasts thinking it’s an authentic old lady costume. Get it? Cause it’s Tyler Perry in a wig! Don’t worry, they’ll repeat it if you didn’t get it the first time. However, for the medium close up of this scene, only one bro is in frame… even as the other two are still talking! This is ineptitude on a scale few major released feature productions can claim in terms passable cinematography. Not great. Not noteworthy. Just mediocre. Workman-like. The slightest bit reasonable for something millions of dollars worth of people will see.
Then again, Tyler Perry fans aren’t there for cinematic technique. They’re not there for decently framed shots. All they want out of Boo! A Madea Halloween is a fun time. Hilarious banter with wacky characters, a few naughty titters and a good Christian message. But that’s not what Boo! A Madea Halloween has. Boo! A Madea Halloween is an unfunny deplorable excuse for an independent film, a religious feature or even a horror comedy. The plot is so razor thin that it could have been wrapped up in 22 minutes as one of the many basic cable sitcoms Tyler Perry has created. But NO. We have to keep Boo! A Madea Halloween for 103 agonizing, atrocious minutes of seemingly improvised diatribes about beating children, stealing candy from children and laughing at the trauma of others. Keep in mind, any of this could potentially be funny, if in a dark fashion, under the right circumstances. These are certainly not the right circumstances.
There’s no sense of comedic timing with anything Tyler Perry, Essie Davis or Patrice Lovely are doing as the major players here. They all simply shout weak jokes with garbled grammar and endless repetition. Even when they get to these younger folks having their wacky misadventures, it feels like the most hastily written sitcom version of sneaking out and going to a party this side of Sister Sister. This is especially the case with YouTube celebrity Yousef Erakat as the lead frat bro. His constant manic gesturing and shouting weirdly mirror the rest of the cast’s main experience on stage. They all project like they’re singing to the cheap seats rather than having any sense of control or volume of their delivery. Boo! A Madea Halloween is actually the second Madea film not based on a stage play. Yet, Perry’s “visionary” eye shows a complete ineptitude in terms of his ability to create a purely cinematic Madea story.
As for any horror fans, you’re pretty screwed in terms of finding much of anything horrific or funny about Boo! A Madea Halloween. Tyler Perry’s idea of a horror driven parody is using tired cliches and adding clumsy slapstick or one-note raunchy humor into the mix. Perry doesn’t even seem to show much of any knowledge in terms of how to construct a horror sequence during these bits. For example, there’s a sequence that feels like a John Carpenter’s Halloween parody where Madea finds a human sized clown in the attic and clocks it in the face. During the entire sequence, we can see the long hair of one of the frat bros underneath, clearly providing no sense of mystery for even Madea to have once she sees the hair and the pay off for it is about as sitcomish as one could expect.
Boo! A Madea Halloween is so ineffectual that it can’t even get Tyler Perry’s biggest constant right; a positive look at Christianity. Once Madea is scared by these frat bros seeking vengeance, Madea gets retribution with help from the local church. There’s a bit of “turn the other cheek,” but our preacher doesn’t seem to have much of any spine. So, he, Aday and Brian help participate in a “scared straight” scenario where those frat bros and Tiffany think they’re being arrested for the murder of Aday and will be sent off to prison to be – as Joe puts it – “raped for real.” It’s such a cynical unfunny note for this cash in to end on. One where the old deceive the young with completely unbalanced ideas of retribution. This is especially nonsensical after a scene like the one where Brian finds some sort of closure by addressing his ex-wife’s affair with Tiffany by standing up for himself with actual words. Nope. We don’t need that. We need to scare youngsters into thinking they’re being sexually assaulted because fuck being responsible for psychological damage.
Even for Perry’s… spotty career up to this point, this is a new low. His earlier films – even the early Madea films – seemed to be somewhat genuine. Watching Boo! A Madea Halloween, nothing seemed genuine. The only solace here is that Boo! A Madea Halloween gave me a newfound respect for someone Perry is often accused of plagiarizing with his Madea films; the late Jim Varney as his Ernest P. Worrell character. While Varney’s own equivalent to Boo! A Madea Halloween from 26 years ago Ernest Scared Stupid isn’t necessarily a good film, it at least has an atmosphere. It at least seems competently put together as a production. Hell, it even had a troll creature that looked pretty good. What does Boo! A Madea Halloween have? Saying shit like “Hellurween,” fearing young people and making vague references to her criminal past that includes putting a four year old on life support. What a nice Christian lady. “Hallelujer” indeed.
Rating: (0 / 5) (Not a Typo)