The boogeyman concept was a mythical creature of the dark concocted by adults who wanted their children to be obedient and go to bed on time. They are shapeless beings who hide beneath beds or in closet doors and stay away from the light. It was also the primary antagonistic force in “The Boogeyman,” a film adaptation of Stephen King’s short story of the same name.
Released earlier this year, “The Boogieman” is directed by Rob Savage from a screenplay by Scott Beck, Bryan Woods, and Mark Heyman and a screen story by Beck and Woods. King’s novels and short stories have frightened readers for decades, and the film adaptations have had audiences jump out of their seats. So it only makes sense that his film based on that same creature of the dark be adapted for a movie made to be seen in the dark. Though not wholly original, it’s a compelling family drama that preys upon our childhood fears thanks partly to terrific performances from its two young stars.
The Turners suffered a terrible tragedy when their family matriarch died in a car accident. The family – sisters Sadie (Sophie Thatcher) and Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair) and their therapist father Will (Chris Messina) – grieve accordingly. Sadie becomes isolated from her friends and family, Sawyer becomes even more frightened of the dark, and their father cannot see what they are going through and pawns them off to another therapist.
One day, another man, Lester Billingsly (David Dastmalchian), grieving over his three children’s loss, comes to Will’s home office. He tells them about a strange entity that came to his house and started killing his children in ways deemed mysterious to medical examiners. Little does Will know that Lester’s session is actually a warning. For the strange entity that haunted him will now haunt the Turners.
Of course, the shadowy entity kills him before Lester can provide more information. It will be up to Sawyer to convince her big sister Sadie and father that the monster that goes bump in the night is real.
So what makes “The Boogeyman” effective as a horror movie is that it is short, sweet, and straight to the point. It doesn’t need to bother building a mythology because most of us already have had an experience of being afraid of the dark or knowing someone who is or was. So Savage can produce plenty of tension around those fears while also toying around with shadowplay. We never know what’s around the corner. Strobe and flickering lights play tricks on us and have us believe a monster was there when it really wasn’t. That is until the creepy crawler suddenly appears a short time later. This monster paralyzes us in how he moves and stalks his victims. Those glowing pair of eyes are scary enough to have you pull covers over your head or at least jump to turn the lights on.
But being straightforward also means that it hardly takes any risks. The family drama is there, with the dad oblivious to their daughters’ needs and concerns. This leaves Sadie to do a lot of the heavy lifting to confirm whether or not Sawyer’s fears are valid. As such, the investigative work takes her to Rita Billings (Marin Ireland), Lester’s wife, who has built a defense consisting of candle lights and a Wile E Coyote-style defensive trip wire to kill or at least mame the monster.
Thatcher and Blair’s performances as sisters are genuine, so much so you believe they could be sisters. There are these little tender moments where they care for each other regarding a loose tooth, then here are those moments where they fight, and then another where Sadie can’t put up with Sawyer insisting that there’s a monster. Their connection shines through the entire film. It’s the other parts of the film that doesn’t work. Messina is fine. And there’s a subplot involving Sadie trying to reconnect with her friends that doesn’t have any place in the film other than to pad for more runtime. The reality is that the film revolves around the family. Everyone else is just background characters.
So “The Boogeyman” may not raise or lower the bar when it comes to scary movies. Still, it gets the job done as something that could be an introduction to the horror genre for those who may be too young or can’t handle the jump scares. The sound work and shadowplay create chills when it comes to those scenes at night or in the dark. And because this creature only operates in the dark, it makes its movements completely unpredictable, which only heightens the tension.
As for the Bonus Features, “The Boogeyman” only contains two. One is a short 15-minute documentary, while the other is an outtake reel. The latter is an obligatory piece that shows the goofs and gags the cast had when they forgot their lines or had a happy accident.
The documentary is where the production fun is at as it takes a look at the making of “The Boogieman,” King’s work as an author, and an exploration of creature’s mythology. Producer Shawn Levy talks about relishing the opportunity to tell such a revered short story, while producer Dan Levine and director Rob Savage address how scary reading the short story at such a young age was for them.
The documentary shows how some things were changed for the film, like how Sadie became the heroine and the Lester Billings character was changed into something more sympathetic rather than a harbinger of evil or how they turned an eight-page short story into a feature-length film. And the screenwriters spoke about overcoming some of those challenges.
Overall, “The Boogeyman” on digital would make an excellent addition to your libary, especially if you want to ease the young ones into the horror genre. Its got effective jump scares, and utilizes lights and sounds to amplify that sense of dread. What’s more, it feels completely grounded because of how it focuses on the characters overcoming the grief of losing a beloved one. The film doesn’t exactly subvert the genre but contains a resonating story.
Here’s a full list of the special features that are available on the digital and Blu-ray:
- Into the Darkness Featurette – Open the door into the dark world of The Boogeyman as the cast and crew share how the terrifying tale, based on Stephen King’s classic short story, was crafted.
- Outtakes – It’s not all just jump scares and bumps in the night.
“The Boogieman” is available on Digital now, and will be available on Blu-ray on October 10, 2023.