I highly doubt Boo! A Madea Halloween will be the vehicle that converts non-believers to the fandom of Tyler Perry, but while watching the filmmaker and storyteller’s wacky new holiday feature I found myself feeling a sense of joy no previous Madea vehicle could provide. It could be that Perry’s comedy feels more loose, or it could be that my defenses against what should be obvious titles to avoid have started to slip as we near the end of a very busy cinematic year. I’m really not sure, and to be honest I don’t know if I want the truth.
Boo! finds Madea tasked with watching over a pair of misbehaving teenage girls on Halloween night. After the girls sneak out to attend a frat party, Madea and her friends set out after them and ruin the fraternity’s big night. Upon returning home, things take a turn towards the paranormal as a strange spirit decides to suddenly reveal itself. This is not the kind of ghost that wears a sheet or appears as an apparition of some fallen figure mind you, but rather an invisible presence that writes things like “get your fat ass out of here or DIE” on foggy bathroom mirrors and speaks through walls. Some might say it’s not even a ghost at all, but hey—no spoilers here.
Rapper and Kardashian-adjacent celebrity Tyga performs his lone hit single at one point, and it’s accompanied by a lengthy dance sequence. “That’s the hoe from back in the day coming out of me,” says Madea as she begins to twerk and lose control of herself. This is the bar for humor and taste, not to mention a low point for the film’s otherwise amusing soundtrack.
Madea does not take too kindly to unwelcome guests, especially when they have bad attitudes, so it doesn’t take long for Boo! to descend into fast-talking madness as soon as haunted happenings begin to take place (roughly an hour into the film). There are a wide variety of genre tropes, including menacing clowns and a horde of zombies brought to life by a cast largely consisting of social media and YouTube stars, as well as a few franchise regulars. With each new appearance Madea screams and rambles off a snarky one-liner before fleeing into another setup for yet another reveal. It’s not the most original idea, but there is a certain charm to the film’s attempts at spoofing as much of the horror genre as possible in a single direct reference.
Perhaps the most amusing and authentic moment of Boo! occurs within a church. Perry has always maintained a certain level of connection to faith in his work, and in this case it shows itself through Madea’s mad pleas to an evening congregation for protection from the strange events of the night. Madea believes only God or Jesus can save her, but a nearby woman is quick to remind her that having faith is not a cure-all for the problems that surround us. She insists it is a path to salvation, but not a switch that suddenly makes things better. This, of course, is not what Madea wants to hear, and the ensuing cacophony of nonsense that spews from Perry’s mouth makes this point undeniably clear.
And it was in that moment that it hit me: There may be many people who believe themselves to be above or somehow superior to Madea films, myself included, but perhaps the reason we avoid these movies is because we fear we will find a piece of ourselves in the title character. Madea is loud, anxious, and constantly lost in the idea that life was better at any point in time other than the present. Nostalgia fuels her every move, and though she attempts to be a better person with each passing day she cannot help getting caught up in the chaos of the world around her. Like us, Madea just wants to be herself, but every time she tries to live life on her own terms there is someone or something that gets in her way.
This mental breakthrough or breakdown carried me through the film’s twist ending, which brought me back to Earth with a not-so-subtle reminder that this is a movie that exists in a universe where life is ever-so-slightly askew in a way that only exists on the silver screen. I am not Madea, but Madea does represent that little voice inside all of us that carries out existence completely unfiltered. She is free to mock what she doesn’t understand and carry out gleeful acts of revenge in ways I could only hope to one day imagine while trying to bury my frustrations with the world around me. She is the embodiment of our collective id, and for a period of time when the jokes work just right that is a wonderful thing to watch exist.
Comparison to other non-horror Halloween fare is sure to abound, but there really is nothing in the genre like Perry’s latest creation. The film is not silly enough to be a modern Ernest Scared Stupid, nor is it inventive enough to be the next Hocus Pocus. I suppose like all Madea films this title falls into a genre only inhabited by other Tyler Perry creations, and even then it’s more of a Star Wars Holiday Special than something that brings to mind the heartfelt comedy found in The Diary Of A Mad Black Woman. There has never been another movie like Boo! A Madea Halloween before and it feels safe to assume there will never be another like it made in the future. This film is a rare, one-of-a-kind experience, and as much as I must stress the need to keep expectations low I do believe there is something of value to be gained through watching it.