The cinemas are chocked full of huge blockbusters, with the likes of Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Fast X, and The Little Mermaid stealing most of the spotlight. Films released alongside this kind of Hollywood fanfare can often be missed entirely. One film that should not be ignored is the latest Stephen King adaptation to hit the big screen, The Boogeyman. It’s a new take on a classic from the horror author, and while it’s not the best horror film you’re likely to see, it’s a nice change of pace from the mainstream.
Based on a short story from 1976 by Stephen King, The Boogeyman stars Sophie Thatcher, Chris Messina, and Vivien Lyra Blair as a family grieving the recent loss of their mother. The family is then tormented by the titular monster after it is passed on from another family. The concept is fairly basic and never really takes off from there. Though each of the main cast delivers dedicated performances, they aren’t really given much to work with. Thatcher is likable as Sadie but deals with pretty cliché grieving high schooler issues, Blair is fantastic as Sawyer, but her character is underdeveloped and often feels ignored. Messina’s character, Will, is a pretty trope-y “cool dad,” but his grief is never really used as a vehicle for growth. Having said all this, the three actors had a chemistry that felt genuine and poignant. Even though much wasn’t done with their characters, they were a joy to watch in every scene.
Story-wise, the plot follows a pretty safe path and doesn’t ever take too many chances. At times it is cliché, and at other times it is pretty inventive. The Boogeyman’s one weakness is light – I know, right, so obvious – but this idea is well executed in the film. The use of lights was really interesting and pretty original in a space where horror movies have already done a lot. For example, there is a scene where Sawyer wraps herself in Christmas Lights, which blink between red and green and have to remain plugged in, preventing her from going too far. Another highlight scene is where Sawyer uses her PlayStation to cast light on the room to look for the Boogeyman. These are the kinds of ideas that really help the film’s tension and provide some pretty chilling moments. Unfortunately, these ideas are few and far between at times.
The family are all dealing with the grief of losing their mother, but this often feels like an afterthought and is only really dealt with by Sadie. This did feel like a missed opportunity to raise the emotional stakes of the film. It is territory that has been ventured into a million times before, but it would have helped this film hit home a little harder.
The Boogeyman himself is genuinely terrifying. The CGI-created monster is well designed, well hidden till the moment he is fully revealed, brutally violent in one particular scene, and all around a scary-ass monster! Now, he is not about to top the list of movie monsters, I mean, he is no Babadook or Xenomorph, but he is still a pretty great creepy creature. The Boogeyman is depicted with only CGI, and one might not appreciate the lack of practical effects, but it certainly works for him. The unnatural movements and his disproportionate features work better with the digital effects and his true form revealed at the end is genuinely horrific.
The scares are definitely there in this film but are a mixed bag. Some feel cliched and rerun, but they definitely do the job. There are a few, however, that feel fresh and come out of nowhere. Not too reliant on jump scares, the film does well at building tension, and the chemistry between the actors really helps you worry for their safety in every threatening scene. Sawyer’s red light therapy scene, especially, was a scene that was honestly chilling and really creative.
The Boogeyman is not going to go down as one of the best horror films, but it is a great night out at the movies. It is sharp, scary, and the actors are a joy to watch. The story is a little muddled and falls into the realm of cliché more than a few times, but the film does enough to steer itself home. The Boogeyman is in theaters right now and will be coming to Hulu later this year.
Make sure you check under the bed and in the closet because The Boogeyman gets a 7.5 out of 10.