The Boogeyman

The Boogeyman is based on a story from Stephen King’s Night Shift, which also gave us the stories that became Children of the Corn, Maximum Overdrive, Graveyard Shift, and The Lawnmower Man. To say he was on fire with that book would be an understatement. This adaptation isn’t the best ever, although it’s certainly better than a lot of them, thanks to the way it uses a monster to symbolize something much scarier – grief.

Will Harper (Chris Messina) is a therapist whose wife passed away in a car accident, leaving him to raise their two daughters, Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair) and teenage Sadie (Sophie Thatcher). He can barely deal with his own sadness, which forces the girls to fend for themselves. One day, a strange man named Lester Billings (the outstanding David Dastmalchian) enters Will’s office, claiming that a supernatural entity murdered his three children. Something occurs here that I will not spoil, but it paves the way for that entity to transfer itself to the Harper home. Soon, Sawyer and Sadie are being tormented by a creepy-looking, multi-legged creature that lurks in the shadows. The latter contacts Lester’s wife Rita (Marin Ireland) in search of answers.

On a horror level, The Boogeyman is in the same category as movies like Insidious and The Conjuring. It has several very good jump scares, especially one involving Sawyer, a light-up ball, and the space underneath her bed. Director Rob Savage creates a mood that fills you with dread because you don’t know how the titular being is going to reveal itself. Excellent work from Sophie Thatcher helps make Sadie’s terror feel authentic. A good scary movie always needs a strong central performance to help the audience buy into the impossible things that will happen. She provides it.

Going deeper, the film is fundamentally about grief and how frightening it is to go forward after a significant loss. The monster is real, yet also a metaphor for how the family feels. Screenwriters Scott Beck, Bryan Woods, and Mark Heyman nicely tie Sadie’s personal journey into her attempt to defeat the entity. In other words, coming to terms with her grief becomes essential to vanquishing it, as it feeds on fear and sorrow. The movie gives you the requisite jolts but has substance underneath them.

There’s nothing particularly new or original in The Boogeyman. It’s a basic paranormal chiller that benefits from being well-made and from having a little sentiment behind the scares. When the movie gets to the coda, you realize the final shot is less about setting up a potential sequel and more about demonstrating how Sadie is achieving a semblance of closure.

out of four

The Boogeyman is rated PG-13 for terror, violent content, teen drug use, and some language. The running time is 1 hour and 38 minutes.