The Boogeyman (2023)
the boogeyman | rob savage | scott beck | bryan woods | mark heyman | based on | short story | stephen king | sophie thatcher | chris messina | vivien lyra blair | monster | creature | mystery | thriller | canada | united states | david dastmalchian | marin ireland
Film: The Boogeyman
Directors: Rob Savage
Writers: Scott Beck, Bryan Woods and Mark Heyman
Starring: Sophie Thatcher, Chris Messina and Vivien Lyra Blair
This was a movie that intrigued me when I heard it was being made. There was another movie with a similar title from 2005. I could have sworn that was marketed as inspired by the same short story from Stephen King, but I'm not seeing anything doing a bit of quick research. It has been a long time since reading the source material as well. This is one that tried to come in with no expectations due to what I’ve shared.
Synopsis: 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. They struggle to get their grieving father to pay attention before it's too late.
We start this by seeing a child in their crib. Something comes from the closet to get them. I should point out is a picture next to the bed, showing the family. We will learn later that the father's name is Lester Billings (David Dastmalchian) and the mother is Rita (Marin Ireland). Whatever this is, its voice sounds like the baby’s parents while having a sinister undertone.
The movie then shifts over to the family from the synopsis. Sadie (Sophie Thatcher) is the older daughter. She seems to be struggling more with the death of her mother than her younger sister, Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair). Their father is Will (Chris Messina). He is a therapist. Despite knowing what is best, he is avoiding talking about what happened to his wife and is bottling it up. He is pushing his children to see a colleague, Dr. Weller (LisaGay Hamilton), though.
We also get to see a bit more in the lives of Sadie and Will. The former's best friend is Bethany (Madison Hu). She has gotten close with Natalie (Maddie Nichols), Cassidy (Leeann Ross) and Anne (Rio Sarah Machado). The new friends are a bit callous with Sadie, who is still processing the grief.
On the other side, we see Will meet with a patient. They leave and a shadow appears in the windows of the door. Lester lets himself in, asking for help. Will agrees to see him, even without an appointment. He feels a dire need. Lester tells what happened to his children and their tragic deaths. He even reveals that the police believe he is involved. He says that there was a monster that is the cause. It came from their closet and he has a drawing of it. Sadie came home from school after an incident, but her father doesn’t know. She finds Lester in the closet of her mother's former studio, having killed himself. Or so it seems.
It is from here that Sawyer has interactions with the entity that Lester claims took his children. This young girl is already afraid of the dark and monsters being in her room. Sadie also meets this creature. They do what they can to convince their father before it is too late. To stay alive, Sadie takes matters into her hands and protect her family from this presence. She gets help from a comforting place as well.
That is where I'll leave my recap and introduction to the characters. Where I want to start is playing a hand a bit here. I rather enjoyed this for the most part. Ahead of writing this review, I did read the Wikipedia page about the short story this is based on and it is faithful to the encounter between Lester and Will in his office. From there, the rest of it is just expanding and doing their own thing. That is how you should manage King's short stories. Take what makes them good and then flesh it out from there. I like the simple enough concept here of taking this entity that terrifies children and using it as our movie monster.
Now that I've gotten that out of the way, when the credits started and I saw that Rob Savage was the director, it clicked to me as the guy who did Host and Dashcam. What is interesting is that those are both found footage. I can see elements from them incorporated here, but not with the filming style. Savage does well in overseeing the supernatural, grounding it in a way where it makes it scarier and building that atmosphere. That is what we get here. I also like the lore of this creature that is set up. If anything, I wanted more of that. I will delve into that a bit more.
The first thing that I thought of there was the movie Smile. The reason I do is that the curse there jumps from people who have experienced trauma. That is what we get to an extent. Lester's first child passed due to SIDS or at least that is what is thought. It could be the monster who did it. That other is the logical explanation that everyone rational would believe. That is left open for us to figure out though, so credit there. The Harper family is dealing with the death of the mother/wife due to a car accident. It seems that makes them susceptible to the entity. I can work with that.
I do need to go over to a negative though. My problem with this as it went on was that it felt generic. There were creepy things that it built in the beginning and it had me hooked as it moved toward the climax. It was from there that my interest waned. I think part of it is the Boogeyman toys with his victims instead of just killing them. That feels more like wanting to pad this out. There is a moment where Sadie needs to get home before something happens to her family. That felt convenient. It is hard to do something to make a movie like this stand out. I just feel it falls short. There is an element as well that harkens back to Host and the implications from it that made me cringe. It was set up earlier though, so I commend them at least for introducing it early.
That should be enough for the story so then over to the acting. I think that Thatcher was good as this teen who is dealing with deeper problems than normal girls her age should be. I thought she carried the weight of the role well. Messina is solid as her father who knows what he needs to do but isn't. It’s like my wife says, she makes a horrible patient and he portrays that. Blair is also solid to finish the family dynamic. She shows good fear as do the other two. I like Dastmalchian and Ireland in their roles. Hu, Nichols, the rest of that friend group and cast rounded this out for what was needed.
All that is left is filmmaking. I want to start with cinematography because I think this is shot great. They do things with angles and framing that help to raise tension. The use of lighting is also good to hide things in the shadows. That harkens back to fearing clothes sitting in a chair as we see it as something sinister in the dark. This works in its favor. There is CGI for the creature. I'm not sure how else you would do it. I thought it looked fine. Other than that, what they did with the sound design was good. The soundtrack other than that fit for what was needed.
In conclusion, I prefer this to the movie made back in the mid-2000s. I like that it takes the bulk of the short story to frame a specific scene and then do its own thing. What works here is the lore. I could use more of it, but I also can't fault the movie for giving us what it did. I thought the acting was solid. The cinematography is good, as was the sound design. They rely on CGI for the effects and the soundtrack fit for what was needed. This isn't a great movie. It pulled me, but I'll be honest, I don't know if it sticks the landing. Still worth a viewing in my opinion. This did hold up after a second watch. Not sure that I pulled anything additional from it though.
My Rating: 7 out of 10