Stephen King sure loves to write monsters. The creatures that populate his universes thrive on our insecurities. Whether they be killer alien clowns, a shapeshifter, or a creature of the night, King pulls at emotional threads to elicit reactions. Sure enough, The Boogeyman follows a similar path. Yet with uniquely sympathetic and relatable characters, The Boogeyman soars under Director Rob Savage.
The Harper family is grieving. After the loss of the matriarch, each suffers from the effects of loss. Sadie (Sophie Thatcher) begins wearing her mother’s clothing and keeping her art. Therapist Will (Chris Messina) takes on extra clients but refuses to go to treatment himself. Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair) fears the dark. When an unexpected guest (David Dastmalchian) arrives at the house, the Harpers’ world is thrown into chaos. A new creature hunts them from the shadows.
The trauma-horror pool continues to overflow with new members, but the performances are too good to ignore. Thatcher stands out, effectively stepping into a lead role. Messina continues an incredible run, adding to a monster 2023 that includes Air and ISS already. He hides grief well and creates an emotional powder keg at the heart of the story. Blair continues her upward ascent. After playing Leia in Obi-Wan and Sandra Bullock’s daughter in Bird Box, she’s established herself as a talented young actress. At times, she steals The Boogeyman from her co-stars. Finally, a short sequence with Dastmalchian chills to the bone. He’s a perfect fit for a Stephen King story, and hopefully, we will see him return in emotionally devasting horror like this in the near future.
Savage and DP Eli Born prove highly adept at maximizing the images on the screen. Their use of lighting and color are excellent. While other films have utilized light as a critical component in horror, The Boogeyman capitalizes on the variations. Globe lights, candles, light boxes, and even video games are all utilized. Each one reflects different kinds of light and keeps us on our toes in the process. The choice to give us strings of sequences with a shakey cam helps unmoor the audience and adds the frenetic energy on display. They also pull off some impressive tension-building, which makes the hair on your neck stand up with anticipation.
What ultimately hurts The Boogeyman are similarities to recent horror flicks. Ignoring similarities to A Quiet Place, Talk to Me, and Smile is nearly impossible. Additionally, because of King’s obsession with monsters hiding in the shadows, there are parallels to both The Outsider and It. While much of The Boogeyman stands on its own, this takes away creativity points, even when it excels in execution.
The visual effects can also drag down the story. The Boogeyman delivers its best scares when the creature hides in the shadows and we’re met with glowing eyes. However, when we glimpse the creature, the CGI does not always stand up. It’s a shame because the creature design is not ineffective. It just pales in comparison to the creature we’ve made up when it goes unseen.
Still, The Boogeyman makes for a fun little haunt. With personalized stakes and an excellent exploration of grief, it stands as an excellent testament to what makes King’s work so good. At the same time, it walks a similar path to his other stories. With a few more adjustments, this could have been an all-timer horror entry, but as it stands, it’s a damn good one.