The film has received mixed to negative critical reviews, with criticism mainly regarding the heavy similarities from earlier horror films such as Halloween, The Exorcist, and The Amityville Horror. However, the movie became successful enough commercially to make the film-makers eager to release sequels, resulting in the film being followed by Boogeyman II and Return of the Boogeyman.
The film opens with Willy and Lacey as children watching their mother and her boyfriend preparing to make out. When the mother notices them, she has her boyfriend tie Willy to his headboard before sending Lacey to her room. She frees Willy from his bed and Willy enters their room and repeatedly stabs his mother's boyfriend with a chef knife in front of a large mirror.
Twenty years later, Lacey now an adult, is married with a young son and lives with her aunt and uncle on a farm. Willy who also lives with them, but has not spoken a word since the night he killed his mother's boyfriend and sometimes, Willy takes various knives from the kitchen and hides them in a drawer. One night over dinner, Lacey finds a letter in the mail from her mother, who claims to be on her deathbed and wishes to see them one last time that night, but Willy burns the letter.
Lacey suffers from nightmares, and has a particularly frightening dream where she is dragged, tied to a bed and almost stabbed by an unseen entity. Her husband, Jake takes her to a psychiatrist to help her confront her fears, and decides to go visit the house she grew up in. They arrive not knowing who is actually living there and meets two teenage girls and their younger brother. Their parents, the homeowners, have apparently just placed the home for sale and then gone out of town. The daughter thinks Lacey and Jake have been sent by the real estate company to view the house. Jake and Lacey pretend they want to buy the house so they can look around. At the house, however Lacey sees a reflection of her mother's deceased boyfriend coming towards her in a mirror inside the bedroom where he died and smashes the mirror in a panic with a chair. Her husband takes the broken mirror with him in an attempt to repair it, but a piece is left behind which later glows red as the teenage girls and their brother are all killed by an unseen force. However, the vengeful spirit of the deceased lover has been released from the mirror.
Willy who's also having problems with mirrors. Seeing his reflection in one caused him to strangle a girl and so he paints all the mirrors in the house black. Later, pieces of a broken mirror in a bag at his feet cause a pitchfork to levitate and nearly impaled him, but misses the attack as he gets saved from it.
Another shard from the broken mirror becomes stuck to Lacey's son's shoe and is left on the ground where the light refracts across a lake where a group of teenagers are partying at the lake by an abandoned house. A couple who are soon impaled by a screwdriver while kissing in their car as another couple drove off and leaves them. Soon after, Lacey flees to get in the house, only to see that her shirt supernaturally starts to tear apart which also leads to her aunt and uncle who are also killed when they're found dead in the barn.
Later, Lacey's husband brings in the family priest to investigate the mirror, only to see that when the priest's hand touches the mirror, it suddenly turns red. A piece of the mirror floats across the room and becomes lodged over Lacey's eye, letting the ghost possess her body. Controlling Lacey's body, the ghost nearly kills her husband and attacks the priest. Before he dies, the priest removes shard from Lacey's eye, releasing her from the ghost's control, and throws it into the kitchen sink, where it bursts into flames as it touches the water. The remainder of the mirror is then thrown into a well, where the same thing happens, as an explosion releases and destroying the mirror once and for all.
The film ends with Lacey, her brother and Kevin visiting the graveyard. After they leave, the final shard of the mirror on the ground, which had gotten stuck to her son's shoe, glowed red.Suzanna Love as Lacey
Ron James as Jake
John Carradine as Dr. Warren
Nicholas Love as Willy
Raymond Boyden as Kevin
The film also uses several apparent pieces of folklore and superstition regarding mirrors—as well as the belief that it is bad luck to break a mirror, the film also discusses the belief that breaking a mirror releases everything the mirror has ever 'seen' and that placing the pieces of a broken mirror into a bag and burying it will counteract the bad luck from breaking the mirror. Additionally, there is the belief that a mirror in a room where someone has died will show the dead person looking back over the shoulder of anyone looking into the mirror. All this was used in the Mexican translation of the film title, released as "El espejo asesino" (the killer mirror).
The film was given a limited release theatrically in the United States by The Jerry Gross Organization beginning in November 1980. It was subsequently released on VHS by Wizard Video.
The film has been released on DVD twice in the United States. The first release was in 1999 by Anchor Bay Entertainment alongside Lommel's The Devonsville Terror (1983). This version is currently out of print. It was subsequently re-released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in 2005 alongside Lommel's Return of the Boogeyman (1994). The Boogeyman was placed on the UK's DPP list in 1984, but was later re-released on the Vipco label in 1992 in a cut form. In 2000 it was released uncut.
Critical reception for Boogeyman has been mixed to negative. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports that 17% of 6 critics gave the film a positive review, with an average rating of 4.1/10. Time Out gave the film a negative review, writing, "Though sometimes slow, what makes the film so beguiling is its conviction and lack of condescension in depicting a world where fact and fantasy collide." Garry Arnold from The Washington Post wrote in his review on the film, "The Boogey Man achieves a certain vicious distinction by putting the occasional spectacular kink in an otherwise motely fabric." Todd Martin of Horror News.net found some originality in the story details yet condemned the film's heavy influences from Halloween and The Exorcist, and he also criticized plot holes such as the fact that a character manages to reassemble the haunted mirror in a very short period of time given how shattered and broken it is. Overall, Martin concluded, "Check it out if you don’t have anything better to do, but don’t expect to be amazed by it." Film critic Leonard Maltin gave the film a positive 3 out of 4 stars, writing, "German art film actor-director Lommel lends unconventional angle to this combination of The Exorcist and Halloween. Effects are quite colorful, if somewhat hokey."
Boogeyman II was filmed in 1981, but unreleased until 1983. Directed by Bruce Starr and an uncredited Ulli Lommel, it was written by Starr, Lommel and the original film's star, Suzanna Love, although the writing goes uncredited in the film. In Boogeyman 2, Lacey is approached by a group of Hollywood phonies to make a movie based on her experiences. Lacey travels to Hollywood, to the home of a film director (played by Ulli Lommel himself), where she brings along the last surviving haunted mirror shard from the end of the first movie as proof to her horrifying experiences. One by one, the phonies are killed by the mirror spirit who possesses the body of the director's manservent. Boogeyman 2 is padded with many flashback sequences from the first film.
Return of the Boogeyman (or Boogeyman 3) was released on May 5, 1994, and is largely constructed around numerous flashbacks to The Boogeyman as well.
In 2016 Hollywood Action House began developing "Boogeyman Chronicles", a series of eight 45-min. episodes. The first episode is currently in post-production and the series will start airing on Halloween 2018 worldwide. It is inspired by Ulli Lommel's 1980 cult hit "The Boogeyman". The new story line was developed after test audiences in the U.S. and Europe saw various cuts of a series of plot-possibilities and characters entitled "Boogeyman Reincarnation". The writing team headed by Colin McCracken is currently working on episodes 2 - 8 with the plan to create a total of up to 64 episodes. Lommel has indicated that, even though he directed episode 1, most of the remaining episodes will be directed by a series of young directors from the U.S, Europe and Asia. Starring in episode 1 are Skylar Radzion, Laurence R. Harvey, Andreea Boyer and Tristan Risk. It was produced by Frank Dragun, Ulli Lommel and David Bond. It is set to develop the story of his famous cult-hit The Boogeyman'.