The Boogeyman

Director: Rob Savage
Starring: Sophie Thatcher, Chris Messina, Vivien Lyra Blair, David Dastmalchian, Marin Ireland
Distributor: Fox/Disney
Runtime: 98 mins. Reviewed in Jun 2023
Reviewer: Fr Peter Malone msc
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: Strong horror threat

Still reeling from the tragic death of their mother, a teenage girl and her younger sister find themselves plagued by a sadistic presence in their house and struggle to get their grieving father to pay attention before it’s too late.

The press notes say that Stephen King approved this version of his 1973 short story. For half a century, Stephen King has been, one might say, king of horror writers. And, there has been an extraordinary number of films and miniseries based on his stories. This one is, perhaps, one of the slightest stories and films.

One of the problems these days is the use of the word “horror” to describe a film. Once upon a time, horror was more in the line of terror and scares. In more recent times, it seems to be an invitation to indulge in blood and gore. Which is a pity because there have been a number of films lately which emphasise the terror rather than the gore but all promoted under that title of “horror”.

For the most part, this is definitely a terror film – but, with its title and audiences wondering about the shadowy figure, the sinister drawings of the boogeyman, will they see this ominous character distinctly. Answer, yes the film does show the boogeyman but not as in any human form rather than one of those sinister, monstrous creatures that have tended to come from outer space.

The initial focus is on grieving widower and therapist Will Harper (Messina). He has two daughters, Sadie in her teens (Thatcher) and the much younger Sawyer (Blair). Sadie is mocked at school by a group of “mean girls” friends. Sawyer tends to nightmares, having a large light in her room at night. So far, so expected.

Then a strange man intrudes into the house asking the therapist for a session, revealing the mysterious deaths of his children, tense, wanting to shut all the doors, the therapist phoning the police – and the man then killing himself upstairs.

There are all kinds of speculation about the boogeyman. Sadie begins to investigate, going with a close school friend to visit the widow of the dead man, still living in the ruins of their house with 100 candles or more burning in the upstairs corridor – in fact, both houses tend to be dark, staircases, basements, ready for sinister happenings. Sadie, needless to say, is disturbed.

On the family level, the daughters are trying to persuade their father to face the sadness of their mother’s death. On the psychology level, they go to consult a psychologist friend.

More and more things go bump in the night, the boogeyman seeming to have taken up residence with the therapist and his family.

There are some scares, there is an atmosphere of darkness eliciting terror (though the blood and gore brigade will consider the whole proceedings tame indeed). Ultimately there is a huge confrontation with the monstrous creature ­ first of all in the candlelit corridors of the mysterious house, then at home, the basement, confronting the beast, fire.

For the terror audience, rather than the horror audience.

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