Although the jump scares are mild and there is very little gore, The Boogeyman still manages to deliver enough excitement to leave a lasting impression.
There has been an overabundance of movies centered on The Boogeyman in recent years. While some have been successful, others have failed and landed in the bargain bin. But they all had something in common. None of them boasted a story crafted by the legendary Stephen King. Despite being originally planned for streaming platforms, fans can now enjoy the latest adaptation on the largest screen available, courtesy of the author’s influence. But is the movie worth the price of admission, or is it just another cash grab that will soon be forgotten?
The movie boasts the acting talents of Sophie Thatcher, Chris Messina, and the ever-impressive Vivien Lyra Blair and the directorial vision of Rob Savage who has delivered triumphs like Host and Dashcam. So, on paper, this low-budget creature feature has everything going for it. And with Stephen King bestowing his seal of approval on the movie, this should be the ultimate horror flick. Or so you’d think.
Instead, The Boogeyman delivers some seriously intense dark, and foreboding jumpscares that will unsettle some, and terrify others, while the horror enthusiasts among us will dismiss it as a disappointingly tepid affair from a proven horror mastermind. Not that the film is bad in any way. Quite the opposite. But after being branded one of the scariest movies of the year, the bar has been set high. And The Boogeyman is way too short on originality to reach it.
For the most part, the plot of the movie has been plucked straight out of the urban legend. A monster lurking in every child’s closet comes out at night to terrify the room’s unfortunate occupants. Only this time, the monster in the closet is real, and it is sharpening its fangs ready for fresh blood. The object of its desires is the Harper family, a father and daughter trio that is still reeling from the loss of its wife and mother. But for a creature that feeds on misery and sadness, the family’s despair is like nectar. After the creature is exposed to the family by the tormented Lester Billings (David Dastmalchian), the monster sets out its stall to terrify the family until they are petrified enough for it to feed. And its methods tap into every kid’s worst nightmare. What lurks in the dark when the lights go out?
Rob Savage takes this ball and runs with it to great effect. The entire movie is plunged into darkness and the monster in the shadows lurks at every turn. It’s a simple and effective approach. One that will have the audience gripping the arm of their chairs for the duration of the film. What’s more, all the tropes and iconography of the genre unfold in the most pleasing and predictable ways. Which is both a triumph and a hindrance. So much so that many of the big scares are telegraphed and fall flat. The classic monster under the bed trope is used to great effect. But its impact is lessened because we all expect the jump scare. And when it eventually hits, it’s not the spine-chilling moment of dread we were expecting.
As the movie unfolds, Savage continues to lean into the dread that the onset of darkness brings. And for those who genuinely suffer from a fear of the dark, this movie will be an ordeal. There is something very primal about the terror that lurks in the dark, and Savage taps into that terror and projects it onto the screen in spades. It’s an unnerving experience and much of the shrewd 99 minutes running time finds us fighting off our fear of the dark. And leading us headfirst into the dark is Sadie, played by the impressive Sophie Thatcher.
Fresh off the back of her role in Yellowjackets, Thatcher is presented as a surrogate mother to her sister Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair). And the result is a character we can truly root for. Far from her rebellious character in Yellowjackets, here Thatcher is a typical teen who rises to meet the creature head-on. And she carries the movie on her back as we unravel the existence of the monster and its nefarious intentions.
David Dastmalchian’s tormented Lester Billings serves to set the stage for the monster’s arrival and leaves us wanting to learn more about his troubled past. But sadly, his involvement is nothing more than a glorified cameo. Which is a real shame. But this teen-terror flick is a vehicle for Thatcher and Lyra Blair and both excel here.
VIVIEN LYRA BLAIR
Her role as Leia Organa in the Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi series came with a certain level of pressure, but here, Blair is free to express herself with Sawyer. And she comes to the fore in spades. More than just a regular kid, she takes to the horror genre like a duck to water and projects great strength. Even in the darkest of horror moments. Achieving a delicate balance can be challenging. However, despite being relentlessly pursued by the antagonist in much of the film, Blair imbues Sawyer with an uncommon determination for someone of her youth. Her performance was truly impressive and I am excited to see where her career will go from here.
Sadly, Chris Messina’s Will Harper finds himself sidelined for most of the movie – which is by design. The Boogeyman is intentionally aimed at a younger audience, and Harper’s daughters are the focal point here. But more than that, there is a fundamental flaw in the purpose of his character. After his wife’s tragic death, Harper has become detached from his two daughters. Which is to be expected to some degree. But throughout the movie, he is slow to react to his daughter’s anguished screams in the dead of night and often doesn’t rush to their aid at all. Instead, he is missing for large parts of the movie and viewers will be left wondering about his whereabouts. After all, they all live in the same house – but even when the creature begins its attack and the screams fill the hallways, Messina is nowhere to be found.
Accompanying the terror that unfolds on screen is a suitably creepy score from Patrick Jonsson. The score is intertwined with some truly unnerving soundscapes that will leave even seasoned horror fans shaken. The heavy usage of tension-creating music builds into a crescendo that accompanies the movie perfectly. And in a darkened room effortlessly conveys a sense of dread and foreboding throughout. Which is the mark of an artist at the top of their game.
At this point, it’s quite evident that The Boogeyman is a decent horror movie that manages to deliver the scares without going overboard. More than just another cheap teen horror flick, the movie is a fun and unnerving 99-minute thrill ride that will haunt, terrify, and drag you into the dark kicking and screaming. Although the jump scares are mild and there is very little gore, this teen-rated content still manages to deliver enough excitement to leave a lasting impression. Rob Savage is a highly skilled director, with a keen sense for the horror genre. But if he was aiming to deliver the year’s scariest movie, he fell short here.
Currently, “Evil Dead Rise“ holds that distinction. But if you’re hoping for an unnerving popcorn movie that will have you gripping the arm of your seat for 99 minutes, this is the movie for you. The story keeps its audience engaged throughout its running time, without ever feeling tedious, and leads them to a satisfying conclusion. Despite its flaws and unoriginal formula, the essence of Stephen King’s masterwork shines through to deliver a great night at the movies. One that deserves to be enjoyed on a big screen in a darkened auditorium. So book your tickets now and enjoy the ride.
Just be sure to close your closet door before you go to bed. After this, every bump in the night will have you checking your room in terror. And that is a hallmark of a great movie.
The Boogeyman is distributed by 20th Century Studios and arrives in cinemas on Friday.
Phil Roberts is the Owner, Daily Content Manager, and Editor-In-Chief of The Future of the Force. He is passionate about Star Wars, Batman, DC, Marvel, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters, King Kong, and the Ray Harryhausen movies. Follow him on Twitter where he uses the force and babbles frequently!