‘The Boogeyman’ Is A Heart-Stopping Horror That Reminds You How Scary The Dark Can Be – Review
When 20th Century Studios The Boogeyman screened at the end of Disney’s CinemaCon 2023 presentation in Las Vegas this year, it was hard to imagine what was in store for us. We had just heard that this little horror flick was initially supposed to be released on Hulu before getting upgraded to a theatrical release – a move that did wonders for Barbarian (also originally made for Hulu) and Smile (commissioned for Paramount+). With a powerhouse like Stephen King involved, one can assume that scares will be plentiful, but how frightful can a PG-13, Disney-backed The Boogeyman flick be?
Thankfully, the Rob Savage-directed The Boogeyman is not short on scares. Based on a Stephen King novella of the same name, the original story focused on a terrifying psychiatry session between Dr. Harper and 28-year-old Lester Billings. Lester, played by David Dastmalchian in this adaptation, seeks help after the unexplainable death of his three children. With the short source material, screenwriters Scott Beck, Bryan Woods, and Mark Heyman capitalized on taking liberties to add deeper layers to the creature and the characters.
The movie follows Sadie (Sophie Thatcher) and her younger sister Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair) as they grieve their recently deceased mother. Their father, Dr. Will Harper (Chris Messina), is a respected therapist who refuses to open up emotionally to his children. Amidst the sadness and confusion of their matriarch’s sudden death, the girls begin seeing a mysterious monster lurking in the shadows. But Will, like any detached dad still wrestling with the loss of his wife, doesn’t believe them. Messina nailed his quiet struggle to perfection,
Like most Stephen King classics, the thrill hits harder when you care about the characters. The movie’s human connection, or disconnection, makes this King adaptation compelling. I was sold on every actor’s performance, from Sophie Thatcher gracefully weaving her character’s overwhelming sadness with her unmatched courage to Vivien Lyra Blair delivering a star-making combination of fear and innocence. Even the supporting cast of Marin Ireland, LisaGay Hamilton, Madison Hu, and the aforementioned David Dastmalchian all creeped me out in one way or another.
And speaking of being creeped out, there were several spine-chilling sequences throughout. With the “Boogeyman” being a creature of the dark, director Rob Savage and cinematographer Eli Born light the night scenes with precision to maintain the right amount of visibility. Whether it’s a glowing moon toy or the illumination of a TV screen, the film finds fascinating creative uses for ordinary things. But there are plenty of not-so-ordinary moments, too, like a “light therapy” session where a bright red box flashes until it gradually fades to complete darkness. It’s a simple and efficient gimmick that genuinely terrified me.
The Boogeyman is a heart-stopping horror film that will remind you how scary the dark can be. The scares aren’t necessarily ground-breaking or mentally scarring, but they are absorbing and highly effective. If you’re a horror fan, watch this movie on the big screen, in a blacked-out theater, with the best sound possible. You will be entertained.