'The Boogeyman' review: Another effective Stephen King adaptation
Courtesy of 20th Century Studios
Based on the 1973 Stephen King short story, Rob Savage’s “The Boogeyman” takes major leaps from the source material in expanding the scope of the narrative, which helps provide a spooky, if contrived, good time at the movies. The OG King inspiration was essentially a recollection told through a deranged man’s confession to his therapist. That doesn’t exactly scream mid-budget horror thriller, but writers Scott Beck, Bryan Woods, and Mark Heyman uphold King’s tone and produce a stylish creature feature with enough emotional heft to fill the big screen. Something that wasn’t a given considering the movie was originally slated for a streaming release before test audiences resonated with the movie’s themes and principles. On a certain level, I did too.
“The Boogeyman” doesn’t break new ground in terms of how trauma can manifest in various ways, but nothing is more relatable then being a child and worrying about what might be lurking in the closet or underneath your bed. That’s something Rob Savage, who managed to create one of the only effective COVID-inspired horror flicks in “Host,” captures in spades. By utilizing the less is more tactic of shielding the main creature for most of the movie, Savage allows audiences to fill in the voids and ascertain if what they just saw was real. It’s suspenseful, scary, and elevates King’s short story beyond the limitations of the page.
At the center of it all is therapist Will Harper (Chris Messina – always reliable) and his two daughters, teenager Sadie (Sophie Thatcher of “Yellowjackets” fame) and middle schooler Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair – who many will remember as Young Princess Leia from last summer’s “Obi Wan Kenobi”). Each of them is still reeling from the recent passing of their mother and are struggling to reacclimate into daily activities like school and work. Things only get worse after a frail, mentally unstable man (David Dastmalchian – chilling as always) walks into Will’s home office and details the horrific deaths of his two children by the hands of an unseen monster and then proceeds to hang himself in an upstairs closet.
Later, Sadie and Sawyer start hearing creeks, hushed whispers, and seeing the occasional shadow and suddenly the man’s monologue is starting to yield some validity. Technically, the movie wants Sadie to be the main protagonist, capitalizing on her fraught state, but the movie’s attempts at juggling Will’s ironic inability at discussing his feelings and Sawyer’s mini nocturnal journeys create a narrative friction that only reaches a cohesive peak during the film’s thrilling climax.
At that point, “The Boogeyman” doesn’t hold back in unleashing the beast, showcasing Savage’s scrappy roots and miniscule budgets have prepared him to the meet the moment. His sense of awareness at tweaking the lighting and sound mix delivers a series of legitimate jump scares that shockingly work. There’s also a daft playfulness that exists throughout the movie with how Savage chooses when and how to reveal the film’s antagonist, sending the viewer home a little uneasy and maybe reaching for the light switch quicker than usual.
THE BOOGEYMAN is now playing in theaters.