"The Boogeyman" stars Sophie Thatcher, Chris Messina, Vivien Lyra Blair, Marin Ireland, Madison Hu, LisaGay Hamilton, and David Dastmalchian. Released on June 2, 2023, the film has two sisters encountering a sadistic presence in their home.
The film was directed by Rob Savage, who's known for directing "Strings", "Host", and "Dashcam". It is based on the 1973 short story by Stephen King. Our childhoods are full of pleasant memories that we remember forever. However, they also have a few terrifying ones that made us wet our pants. Notably, we had that anxious feeling of some mysterious figure haunting our rooms in the dead of night, making us lose our sleep and our parents' patience. It could be inside the closet, under our beds, or even down the dark basement. Regardless of where it hides, our imaginations made us aware that no one is safe, not even in the safety of our own home. In 1973, horror author Stephen King turned this haunting idea into reality as a short story published in the March 1973 issue of Cavalier. The story's success resulted in it being adapted as a short film by Jeff C. Schiro in 1982, a theatrical play directed by David Oakes, and a 27-minute movie in 2010 by Gerard Lough. This brings us to the latest adaptation of the terrifying short story that has haunted readers since its debut. However, instead of being another short film, the adaptation expands its horrifying concept as a 90-minute theatrical experience to get more people back to the cinemas. With that said, let's see if this film is scary enough to make us want to sleep with the lights on.
The story follows two sisters: high school student Sadie Harper (Thatcher) and her young sister Sawyer (Blair), who're reeling from their mother's recent death. The sisters' father, Will (Messina), a professional therapist, was also impacted by his wife's death. One day, a desperate patient named Lester Billings (Dastmalchian) arrives unexpectedly at their house, pleading for help. Will accepts the offer, but little did he and the girls know that the patient also brought along a mysterious entity that slowly started to prey on the family. As the supernatural creature grows more dangerous through the family's suffering, the Harper sisters must face their greatest fears to survive its wrath.
For those unaware, I'm one of the few who haven't read many books from Stephen King. However, that doesn't mean I don't appreciate his frightening imagination and storytelling. I've only recognized his works through the film adaptations. Some turned out good, like the recent iteration of "It", while others were better off kept in the closet. "The Boogeyman" is another Stephen King story I was unfamiliar with until it was brought to my attention. Since I genuinely enjoy watching horror movies and a few adaptations of King's numerous novels, it would be a nightmare for me not to check it out. Besides, I think I'm old enough to realize the monster is only a figment of my imagination…unless the movie says otherwise.
"The Boogeyman" is basically a traditional horror movie involving a family encountering a creature often seen in children's nightmares. But there's more to it than the usual series of jump scares and gory moments. The movie is also about loss and fear, with the sisters reeling from losing their mother. The older sister Sadie suffers the most as she struggles to move on, even going as far as wearing her mother's dress to school. While the film has the essential horror elements we expect, it uses them to reflect on its themes and provide tolerable storytelling instead of having them on autopilot as most lackluster horror movies do. The execution is far from perfect, but its direction and frights have enough solid appeal to provide a mostly satisfying adaptation of Stephen King's short story.
Regarding Rob Savage's filmography, the only other movie I've seen from him was "Dashcam". From what I remember, I thought that film was another watchable addition to the found-footage subgenre, even though the main character was pretty annoying. I also heard many great things about "Host", but sadly, I couldn't find the time to watch it because I don't have Shudder on my list of streaming services. So that should make "The Boogeyman" my second exposure to the filmmaker. All I can say is that I appreciate his direction in "The Boogeyman" more than what he did with "Dashcam". It's not just his attempt to balance the scares with bearable drama. It's also how he envisions the scenario. From the bone-chilling, dimly-lit atmosphere to its mixture of tension and creepiness to even the creature design, Rob Savage delivered a solid, nightmarish representation of every kid's worst fear: being alone in the dark and haunted by something hiding in the shadows.
But, of course, the narrative won't impress everyone, depending on what they desire from the genre. This is one of the movies that relied a bit more on the horror drama side than just a straight-up scare-fest with cliched victims and cheap jump scares. There were a few jump scares in the movie, but they were more frightening than irritating. For people who've grown tired of cheap and low-quality modern horror movies, including me, this approach is a nice change of pace that benefited from the cast and a tolerable script by Scott Beck, Bryan Woods, and Mark Heyman. Considering that Beck and Woods hit rock bottom with their latest directorial effort, "65", this improvement is what they need to get themselves back on their feet in the film industry. However, it might not do much for anyone else who does regarding its pacing and focus on the family drama over numerous scare tactics. Additionally, even though its screenplay is suitable for the family aspect, it occasionally falls victim to the usual horror tropes seen in other films, especially during the third act.
Going back to the cast, the actors involved made a decent effort in their performances to keep me away from the dark. Sophie Thatcher, best known for her role in "Yellowjackets", makes for a compelling protagonist struggling with loss regarding her performance as Sadie, and Chris Messina was pretty good as Will. Vivien Lyra Blair also did well in making Sawyer an endurable child character. Blair was known for playing Guppy in "We Can Be Heroes" and the young Leia Organa in the "Obi-Wan Kenobi" series on Disney+. I almost forgot she was in that show until I did some research on her. Considering how well she did in her previous works, here's hoping the young actress can keep the streak going. The rest of the cast was also decent, including LisaGay Hamilton as Dr. Weller and even David Dastmalchian as Lester Billings despite his short screen time.
Overall, "The Boogeyman" makes most of its horror elements go bump in the night with a well-acted and spookily satisfying take on Stephen King's short story. Some of its flawed narrative beats may have prevented the movie from joining the Horror Hall of Fame. However, its technical aspects and decent story have enough light in its core to shine the dreadful darkness away. It's another movie showcasing that a horror film can be watchable if its narrative is as compelling as its frights. From its respectable cast to Savage's approach to its chilling atmosphere, the film provides a fair amount of nightmarish creeps to make specific viewers check their closets and beds more than once before bedtime. It's far from a horror masterpiece, but for casual moviegoers looking for a fright or two, it's a good watch….unless you're afraid of the dark.