[Review] THE BOOGEYMAN (2023) Dishes Out Good Grief, But Familiar Scares

There have been many incarnations of the Boogeyman or boogeymen in popular culture. From books to movies to Saturday morning cartoons (“Who you gonna call?”), the character is popular with horror writers as the ultimate childhood fear. Whether it takes on physical shape or lurks in our imagination, it often serves to explain the unexplainable when trying to get a good night’s sleep.

“The Boogeyman” directed by Rob Savage (“Host” and “Dashcam”) begins with a shadowy figure with an inhuman voice trying to soothe a crying toddler by claiming to be her father. It gets her to stop crying in swift offscreen fashion. It is an effective pre-title sequence that sets up either a cunning supernatural villain or an intentional misdirect about the monsters lurking within the hearts of loved ones.

It’s not a misdirect, it’s a monster movie.

Sophie Thatcher as Sadie Harper in 20th Century Studios’ THE BOOGEYMAN. Photo by Patti Perret. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

The film is written by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods (“65” and “A Quiet Place”) and Mark Heyman (“Black Swan” and “The Skeleton Twins”) based upon the short story by Stephen King of Stephen King fame.The story concerns the Harper family coping with the loss of wife and mother Cara Harper (Shauna Rappold). The surviving members – teen Sadie (Sophie Thatcher), younger sister Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair) and dad Will (Chris Messina) – try to adjust to life with each other, yet there is seemingly a crack in the foundation of their family that threatens to distance them. That’s before a monster appears in Sawyer’s closet.

Will, who works out of his home as a therapist, encounters a stranger named Lester Billings (David Dastmalchian of “The Suicide Squad” and “Dune”) who enters unannounced. Billings reveal his guilt over the possible deaths of his children to an unseen force they warned him about, but he ignored until it was too late. Will leaves him in his office to go call the police, allowing Lester to slip further into the Harper house and commit suicide in a closet for Sadie to find. Whatever unseen force troubled Lester and his family has now attached itself to the Harpers, starting with Sawyer as the most vulnerable member to torment. Sadie delves deeper into her sister’s fears to try and help and soon becomes a target herself.

Here is where the film and titular entity plays fast and loose with its rules. There’s no concrete origin to the creature given. It hates the light. The name Boogeyman implies a gender, but as presented, is all spindly arms and a gaping maw. More like a humanoid insect that can appear and disappear when the plot requires it to. One can assume it was born and raised in the land of Jumpscaria, where it learned how to hide, wait and pounce onto things. It can get into your mind and invade your nightmares. It can also hide in dark basements and pretend to be a deceased loved one in voice and image.

What works best is the direction by Savage who skillfully utilizes camerawork, lighting and blocking to effective use to hide the creature in blink-and-miss moments. Savage also gets fine performances from his lead and supporting cast members. Cinematography by Eli Born is quite strong and creepy.

Overall, the film can be a good gateway horror for newbies seeking teeth chattering jump scares and tension. For seasoned horror fans, references and influences from other recent horror films may seem adequate, but derivative. You’ll have fun with it, but it might not follow you home afterwards.

Final thoughts:

In a scene, the boogeyman crosses town from one house to another in a matter of minutes. Did it Uber?

  • Brian W. Smith, THE BOOGEYMAN
Brian W Smith