The Boogeyman is a horror film that shows up on time, efficiently does its job, and promptly clocks out. It doesn’t offer more than it promises, but it doesn’t offer less. Some might go in with higher expectations than others considering that it was based on a short story by Stephen King. Although it’s not destined to become a cinematic horror classic like The Shining or Carrie, The Boogeyman fits comfortably with mid-tier screen adaptations like The Mist and Doctor Sleep. The scares are effective, the performances are committed, and while the rating doesn’t venture beyond PG-13, the filmmakers make the most of what they can away with.
To clarify, this Boogeyman has no connection to the 1980 almost cult classic or the 2005 forgotten failure (yes, that was a nod to Hats Off Entertainment). He might not be Michael Myers or John Wick, but this film’s titular Boogeyman possesses an unnerving presence even when off-screen. Then when the Boogeyman finally emerges from the shadows, he delivers on the chills. The true star is Sophie Thatcher, who you might recognize as the younger Natalie from Yellowjackets. Thatcher plays Sadie, who’s overcome with more teenage angst than usual after her mother dies.
Although Sadie has cut herself off from much of the world, she will let a few people in. Vivien Lyra Blair, who played a little Leia in the Obi-Wan miniseries, gives a convincing performance as Sadie’s sister Sawyer. While the film could’ve done more to flesh out their relationship, the sisters do provide an emotional anchor for us to latch onto. The underrated Chris Messina is also commendable as their father, a therapist who unwisely welcomes a mysterious patient into their house. The patient brings along the Boogeyman, who finds a new closest to set up shop in.
From there, the story goes in the direction you’d expect, but that doesn’t mean the jump scares fail to deliver. A highlight involves a door and a tooth, although I’ll let you fill in the blanks. The film’s blue-lit aesthetic admittedly takes some getting used to, channeling the first Twilight movie. Seeing how so many modern movies and shows are draped in incomprehensible darkness, though, at least you can see everything that’s happening in The Boogeyman. Well, except when director Rob Savage intentionally hides something sinister in the dark.
The Boogeyman has three screenwriters, Scott Beck and Bryan Woods (A Quiet Place) and Mark Heyman (Black Swan). While the story does commentate on grief and family, the script isn’t as thematically compelling as the writers’ previous works. A few plot points feel undercooked as well. There’s a frenemy who’s constantly giving Sadie a hard time. The audience keeps waiting for the character to either get her comeuppance or be redeemed, but there’s no payoff. However, the three main characters are given satisfying enough arcs, keeping us invested throughout the thrilling finale. It could’ve been deeper, but for a film simply called The Boogeyman, it provides fun summer escapism that’s worth revisiting come Halloween.