Everyone struggled with it at some point in their life. Being young, thinking maybe something was hiding under the bed at night. Seeing things in the corner of the room when nothing was there. Fearing that thing you thought was creeping around your closet. Maybe we all didn’t collectively personify this entity as The Boogeyman, but it is certainly the most well known title for such a subject. Based on a short story from the master of horror, Stephen King, does the new film The Boogeyman do justice to the terror that traumatizes the world’s youth?
After loosing the matriarch of the family, The Harpers are returning to normal life. Sadie (Sophie Thatcher) and Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair) are returning to school. Their father, Will (Chris Messina), as a psychiatrist has started seeing patients again at his in-home office. While the girls are settling back into the school day, Will is visited by an unscheduled new patient. When this man tries to tell Will about his troubles, he seemingly transfers something onto the Harper family. Now terrorized by a force unknown to man, The Harpers need to find a way to break the cycle that helps this other-worldly evil thrive.
The Boogeyman is another entry in a string of horror films that use the mystery of what goes bump in the night to deeply explore issues of mental health and well-being. See recent films like Smile or The Night House as other examples of this. While this type of exploration is welcome and to varying degrees, well done, The Boogeyman succumbs to the same pitfalls its predecessors suffer from. The manifestation of an evil presence as something tangible and real in the film’s story creates a rift the deeper themes being explored.
The titular antagonist of this tale is an allegory for one inability to move past their grief. At the end of all things the idea works, but when a physical creature that haunts and terrorizes those who hold on to their recent loses that our protagonists can see and interact with, the ultimate goal is deflated. It’s hard to gauge a movie’s success as a whole when the pieces aren’t allowed to fully fit together. Even if some parts are done well.
And some parts here are done, very well. The opening intro to the one and only Boogeyman is creepy and effective. The flourishes of beady glowing eyes tucked into dark corners are all well placed and eerie. The sound design does wonders in keeping your nerves on edge. It’s the loose story threads and technical loopholes that keep The Boogeyman from really scaring your socks off.
A film doesn’t need a manual for its creepy crawlers to make it a success. After all, supernatural beings don’t abide by common laws of physics. Yet, something in the way that The Boogeyman‘s available modes of transportation and movement feels underexplored. With the myriads of people refusing to let go of their grief everyday around the world, does the Boogeyman have the ability to terrorize people simultaneously? Are there Boogeymen that all help each other out? I guess that is sequel fodder.
The performances are what really keeps the film from sinking lower than it could have gone. Though a typical role where the father doesn’t believe anything mystical or demonic could be real is nothing new, Chris Messina does a good job of making his decisions feel warranted and feasible. Vivien Lyra Blair as the young Sawyer though steals the show. Our intro to her character is very paint by numbers, but as the film goes on she really grows in her performance to help the audience feel sad, scared, and most of all, makes them laugh.
The Boogeyman is nothing special, but it isn’t anything awful. It does its job and doesn’t veer in any wild directions. It won’t haunt your dreams, you will be able to sleep just fine when it’s over, but it won’t make you think you wasted your time.
Final Grade: B-
Check out more of Matthew’s articles.
Here’s the trailer of the film.