Home » The Boogeyman is a Suspenseful and Well-Executed Stephen King Adaptation [Review]

The Boogeyman is a Suspenseful and Well-Executed Stephen King Adaptation [Review]

The Boogeyman. Yes, that Boogeyman. Not Michael Myers or Martin Shkreli, but the child-killing mythical monster who lurks in the darkness of our ajar closets and under our beds. This iteration of the tale as old as time is told by Stephen King in one of his earlier and contained short stories and is brought to screen by filmmaker Rob Savage. Savage is coming off of very entertaining and acclaimed horror gem Host. Host is an incredibly inventive low budget horror movie, made during the pandemic. The Boogeyman is Savage’s third feature film, and first with a classic narrative structure. Although Savage doesn’t reinvent the wheel with his direction of The Boogeyman, the technical execution is impressive as hell and makes for an entertaining movie. Along with Savage, the filmmaking team also consisted of Scott Beck, Bryan Woods (A Quiet Place), and Mark Heyman (Black Swan), who all co-wrote the screenplay. Beck, Woods and Heyman are veteran screenwriters and do a great job of adapting this Stephen King short story into a ninety-minute movie that keeps moving and packs a punch with the scares. The tone and themes of The Boogeyman stay true to what works in Stephen King adaptations, bone-chilling scares, but also plenty of emotional weight to invest in the characters and story. 

Sophie Thatcher (Yellowjackets) stars as Sadie Harper, a teenage girl who recently lost her mom to a car accident and is having a hard time coping with that loss. Sadie’s dad, Will, played by the great Chris Messina (Devil, Air), who is a therapist that refuses to confront his own mental trauma. Sadie’s little sister, Sawyer, played by Vivien Lyra Blair (Obi-Wan Kenobi), obviously struggles with the loss of her mom like her older sister and father but takes a more upbeat approach to grief, and brings a lot of light to the movie, literally. While navigating their struggles, the Harpers are then introduced to the mythical monster, through a troubled patient of Dr. Harper, Lester Billings (David Dastmalchian of The Suicide Squad). 

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The acting is good from all of the key players. Messina seems to be having a real moment right now, but he for sure always brings it. His connection with the girls feels seamless and he carries such an important emotional weight in this movie that in the wrong hands, could have been flat out stupid. Messina’s character is empathetic as a therapist, but also complicated as a father. The love for his daughters is obviously there, but the emotional struggle is real and Messina brings that to life. 

Even though The Boogeyman is a contained story, the set pieces still manage to be grandiose and exciting, even in small spaces. The creature itself is worth the price of admission. For the sake of not spoiling anything, I won’t go into visual specifics of the creature, but the way it slithers and crawls around in the dark is harrowing. The props used to add tension to scenes are also brilliantly conceived and well-executed. Particularly Sawyer’s toy, the Moon Ball. The Moon Ball is a basketball sized object that looks like and shines like the moon. The Moon Ball isn’t exactly a MacGuffin by definition, but just like Danny Torrance’s Big Wheels in The Shining, the Moon Ball is a cleverly used prop that enhances the creepiness of a scene with its unique features. In a movie where the villainous creature lurks in the dark, the Moon Ball is the perfect prop. Savage’s use of lighting is really the strength of this movie. Sometimes when the set pieces are dependent on the darkness it can flat out be hard to see the action. But in The Boogeyman, the darkness isn’t distracting, the action is consistently visible and as weird as it may sound, very easy on the eyes. The Boogeyman wastes no time with exposition (almost to a fault), as the creature’s intentions are very clear, it wants to latch onto a subject, and then scare its unfortunate prey to death, described as “playing with its food”. The victims are primarily children, but the Boogeyman doesn’t discriminate, nobody is safe, and that makes it all the scarier. 

One divisive aspect of The Boogeyman will inevitably be the inexplicable nature of the characters going about their lives at home in the dark. Not seeming to care about flipping the lights on at any point. See below…

I can see both sides of it. On one hand it does seem nonsensical for the characters to have such a hard time keeping lights on. It is quite obvious from the jump that the Boogeyman doesn’t ever appear in the light. But on the other hand, it’s a movie. Also, worth mentioning that it would be near impossible to avoid the darkness completely. The Boogeyman is such a quick movie that nitpicking the typical horror tropes is a fruitless endeavor. I will say though that I would have liked a little more exposition on the mythology of the titular character. There is a little bit of an explanation, but that is mostly firsthand and provides no real historical context. I thought it would have served the film well to throw in an extra five- or so-minute scene that would have explained the history of the creature. I guess not knowing anything about the creature added to its efficacy as a mysterious in-the-dark monster. But I couldn’t help but think about the Vincent D’Onofrio scene in Sinister where his character lays out the history of Bughuul so quickly and so effectively. D’Onofrio’s character was not part of the story at all, and only served the purpose of providing exposition, but taking a break to understand what we are up against is inherently human, and in my opinion, would have made for a worthy addition to The Boogeyman… 

As I had mentioned earlier, The Boogeyman, thematically speaking, is classic Stephen King. The Harper family suffering a tragic loss makes them an easy target for a creature like the Boogeyman. I was a fan of how the family’s inability to communicate amongst each other led to so many organic plot points and scene setups. They really needed to band together in order to combat the Boogeyman, and just like most King stories, it is the internal struggles that actually trump the external forces. The collision of personal growth and familial connection leading to triumph over the tribulations we face as families and individuals feels authentic in The Boogeyman. Even in the face of tragic loss, King characters tend to overcome their personal obstacles, even if they don’t totally overcome those external forces. In this case, that external force is a shadow-dwelling child-killing mythical creature…

Overall, I’d recommend The Boogeyman to any fan of the horror genre, but especially to fans of Stephen King. Just like Mike Flanagan in recent years with his adaptations of King’s work, Savage seems to have a great feel for what makes a King adaptations play well on screen. Savage clearly understands how to build suspense and make the audience jump with imaginative setups and excellent execution. The Boogeyman is relentlessly scary, and although I think that some of the heartfelt familial connections were lacking, everyone brought great performances to the table.

People who seek a decent story with good performances and plenty of jump scares will find The Boogeyman very accessible. And for f**k’s sake, will someone please turn a gd light on? One time…

Wicked Horror Rating: 7.5/10

The Boogeyman is playing exclusively in theaters as of June 2nd, 2023.

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