The Boogeyman adapts a long-popular twelve-page short story from Stephen King, who may be the most notorious horror storyteller of all time. As a result of stretching that story out, this film can feel thin at times, but it also manages to be a surprisingly potent tale about the effects of shared trauma on a family. It deals with loss, and how leaning on your family and tackling it with them may reveal a whole new purpose, even if it’s hard for a while. It’s also downright terrifying.
Rob Savage has a very restrained style of direction. His visuals predominately thrive on suggestions instead of sight, only revealing the full horrors of the situation when they’re most impactful. There are a few examples of incredibly impressive vision here. One scare in particular involves light from a video game as the titular monster creeps around trying to avoid it. The scene is a prime innovation in the genre. Some absolutely stunning stuff here and there.
Still, despite working when it needs to, the story and characters here are pretty thin. There could be an argument made that, since the film was adapted from a short story, they’re simply an expanded engine for King’s message; a larger expression of trauma response through a scenario in which nobody could help but sympathize.
But that level of depth doesn’t really translate. It is only because the performances from our lead trio are so good that the big narrative beats work, but that isn’t necessarily a knock. They’re often painfully realistic, and do wonders for what are essentially concept characters. Where the character writing can’t be helped is in the rest of the main players.
From the standard cast of high-school bullies to the lady that was driven insane by the monster because she encountered it before the main characters did (and has since dedicated her life to trying to defeat it), these clichés cannot be ignored in spite of more good performances. They’re just so tired and played out. Perhaps at one point they could’ve been believed, but by now, horror has moved past the need for basic motivations like these that exist only to move the plot forward on a purely mechanical level.
The clichés bleed over into the scares on occasion, as well. There are more than a few exciting scares like the aforementioned one, but most of them are all rolled together into the final act, with maybe one or two exceptions. Most of the scares early-on fall victim to predictable jumps and weak resolutions. The creature design is truly horrific, which ensures a certain fear-factor that never really leaves, but the film is inconsistent when delivering it’s scares. It’s still scary enough, but perhaps not new enough.
Even still, Rob Savage isn’t getting enough credit for this one. All things considered, his work in adapting a short story into a full picture and stuffing it with memorable scares and consistent, even powerful storytelling, is remarkable. The original themes and concepts are done justice but he also makes this version very much his own.
There is a lot to be said about horror in it’s modern state, especially monster-horror. Even if The Boogeyman falls victim to some of the tendencies that define the worst of horror recently, it does enough to make up for it through calculated direction and visually-driven scares that bury the lazy jumps and boring bumps in the night.
The film’s ending may leave a bitter taste in some people’s mouths, but the finale that precedes it will likely do enough to overpower that for most. That dynamic can basically be used to describe The Boogeyman as a whole. The shortcomings are clear, but there’s always something that swoops in and helps to tip the balance into positive favor. This is a blast in the theater that serves as a reminder as to why people will always show up for horror movies, and an overall win in the end.
The Boogeyman is currently playing in theaters courtesy of 20th Century Studios.
The Boogeyman can feel thin at times, but it also manages to be a surprisingly potent tale about the effects of shared trauma on a family.
Movie-loving writer and aspiring filmmaker.