The Boogeyman review: Stephen King’s adaptation shoots out into the night

Published: 2023-05-25T16:00:00

Updated: 2023-05-25T15:26:41

It’s time to bring those night lights out of retirement, as The Boogeyman is upon us. Though not reinventing the wheel, host filmmaker Rob Savage has taken a Stephen King story and expanded on it to create an effectively spooky horror film, one that has plenty of jump scares and a heartfelt family story woven into the narrative.

Rob Savage rose to global fame with the release of his claustrophobic pandemic horror Host, about a Zoom séance gone wrong. The filmmaker took the identifiable anxieties that society was feeling at the time and ran with them, delivering a punchy supernatural thriller. Although it turned out to be a divisive film, the follow-up to Dashcam was creepy and went against the grain by introducing a truly unlikable lead character.

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Sure, the low-budget found footage-style subgenre has been around for some time, having achieved infamy with the release of The Blair Witch Project, but Savage’s work hit the refresh button and proved that there are still plenty of ways to terrify viewers with a simple premise. Host currently has a 99% score on Rotten Tomatoes, and was recently dubbed the “scariest movie of all time” according to science, which is pretty impressive given that it all started as a joke.

But anyone hoping to see a trilogy brought closer to life on screen with their latest project, think again. The Boogeyman is a departure from Savage’s usual style, trading malevolent spirits with things that go bump in the night. The film is an extension of the Stephen King short story of the same name and offers the filmmaker a much bigger budget (and bigger stars) to play with.

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The Boogeyman Expands Stephen King’s Terrifying Vision

Anyone who has read King’s story will wonder how it can be made into a feature film, given that it is essentially a conversation between two people. A grieving father named Lester Billings goes to see psychiatrist Dr. Harper, where he tells him about the monster of the same name and how he had been stalking his children for years. He admits to not believing his children, allowing the Boogeyman to come in and kill each of them one by one.

In Savage’s adaptation, by the time Billings (David Dastmalchian) is done with his statement, the entity is left behind at the home of Dr. Will Harper, who is already dealing with a lot of demons of his own. After his wife is killed in a tragic car accident, he is tasked with caring for his two daughters, Sadie (Sophie Thatcher) and Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair). Unfortunately, his experience in the field of psychiatry does not translate into his own life, and his inability to open up to his children and talk about the devastating loss prevents them from dealing with his grief.

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We soon learn that such a setting creates the perfect hunting ground for Boogeyman. As Billings warned: “It’s all about your kids when you’re not paying attention.” Harper ignores the warning, which is fair enough when you’ve dealt with so many delusions in the past. But you can’t help but empathize with her youngest son, Sawyer, already afraid of the dark, when the creature begins to stalk her in the night and his pleas fall on deaf ears. When Sadie becomes the second target, she’s tasked with helping her younger sister and stopping the Boogeyman before he destroys his already fractured family.

The Boogeyman features unexpected scares and amazing performances from the cast.

The Boogeyman is classic “behind you” style scare (they even say so at one point), compelled to leave audiences going through their closets and under their beds before going to sleep at night. Savage makes good use of lighting and sound design to build tension for carpet-jumping scares. The filmmaker has a way of luring an audience into thinking they’re in for a jolt, before slowing it down, and just as those guards go down, he cranks it up to 11 with an unexpected surprise. He is extremely effective, especially in the early scenes of the movie when we haven’t yet been introduced to the light-hating insectoid.

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Although some may argue that The Boogeyman is too similar to A Quiet Place and Lights Out, there’s enough to set it apart from other horrific creatures, particularly the second narrative dealing with the struggles between the already fractured Harper family. The parallels between the two devices might be a bit over the top, but they’re balanced, and the conflict between Will, Sadie, and Sawyer and their fragmented grief feels genuine thanks to the outstanding performances from the cast.

Sophie Thatcher as Sadie, Vivien Lyra Blair as Sawyer and Chris Messina as Will in The Boogeyman20th century studies

As she does in Yellow Jackets, Sophie Thatcher demonstrates an expert level of emotional range and vulnerability as Sadie, while Sawyer’s Vivien Lyra Blair, who recently appeared in the series Fatal Attraction, is certainly a star in the making, matching the range. of Thatcher despite her youth. age. Similarly, Chris Messina gives a compelling performance as his father, Will. Although the film deals with heavy themes, there are also moments of lightness, with the jokes peppered with it being made genuinely funny by its delivery. Oh, and let’s not forget the clever inclusion of a Host easter egg, as Sadie attempts to contact her mother from beyond the grave.

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Arguably The Boogeyman’s weakest point is the monster itself. Savage proved with his previous films that less is more: sometimes the scariest things are the ones we don’t see, a device used so well in Host. Perhaps his last work should have followed the same path. In this case, the titular creature is a CGI creation, one that looks suspiciously like the noise-sensitive aliens in the aforementioned A Quiet Place. And the more we see it, the less weird it gets. He’s also the vehicle for the biggest plot hole: he’s a supernatural, physical entity that can bleed. Although the ending doesn’t exactly set up a sequel, there’s definitely room for this story to continue, so perhaps this question will be answered in a follow-up.

Boogeyman Review Score: 4/5

Despite a mild case of deja vu, The Boogeyman is a solid new entry to the horror genre, staying true to its source material and far from the low end of Stephen King adaptations. Although the monster itself is a bit too digitized, the scares make up for it, as do the impeccable performances from the cast. Horror addicts, worth watching.

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