Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

Clichés abound and limited scares hinder The Boogeyman

Literary horror legend Stephen King sees another one of his properties come to the big screen in The Boogeyman from 20th Century Studios. King’s original short story was first published in the March 1973 issue of the magazine Cavalier and later collected in King’s 1978 collection Night Shift. Rob Savage helms the film adaption while Scott Beck & Bryan Woods pen the screenplay.

High school student Sadie Harper (Sophie Thatcher) and her little sister Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair) are still reeling from their mother’s recent death. Devastated by his pain, their father, Will (Chris Messina), a therapist by profession, gives them neither the support nor the affection they try to claim from him. One day Lester (David Dastmalchian), a desperate patient, shows up unexpectedly at their house asking for help. Initially reluctant to see him without an appointment, Will caves. Little does the good doctor know he Is about to become the victim of a terrifying entity that preys on his family and feeds on their most tremendous suffering.

Growing up in the eighties, I remember all the rage when a new adaption of a Stephen King book would hit the big or small screen. While directors such as Rob Reiner, Frank Darabont, and Andy Muschietti have succeeded with their adaptations, the list of missed directors is a bit longer. Sadly The Boogeyman falls into the latter category.

The film starts promising enough by introducing us to a young girl who falls victim to the boogeyman. When we meet our protagonists, Sophie Thatcher quickly taps into the teen angst required for a character who lost their mother. In contrast, Vivien Lyra Blair eludes childhood innocence without being annoying.

The most seasoned actor in the cast, Chris Messina, gives a performance that screams paycheck performance, which is a shame because he was so memorable in Air. Outside of extended cameos from Lisa Gay Hamilton and David Dastmalchian, no one in the cast offers anything worth mentioning.

Director Rob Savage employs old-school tricks to try and scare the audience. Creaking stairs, rolling thunder, rustling plastic, rattling windows, and squeaking doors are all sounds that can drive a chill up your spine. Then suddenly, it builds to a crescendo with a loud bang. Good sound effects can shock you for what might feel like an eternity, even if those moments have been leading up to this moment. 

The camerawork in The Boogeyman often takes the form of a voyeuristic cupboard during certain scenes, immersing viewers into the story as if they were present. Or the camera might stealthily sneak up on the protagonist from behind as he’s straining and trembling on his legs – utterly unaware of what will happen. In this case, The Boogeyman isn’t necessarily reinventing scare tactics but playing it safe.

As for the script, Scott Beck & Bryan Woods are capable of better, but their work here comes across as a fan film. The movie’s plot is too predictable, and when the big showdowns begin, it fails to reach its potential. Tension is mainly absent, turning The Boogeyman into a standard PG-13 chiller. 

The Boogeyman is a suitable horror movie for novice viewers since they will need to figure out exactly when to expect scares – but the experienced watcher will likely find this one disappointing.

Final Grade: C-

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