The Boogeyman


‘…The Boogeyman should satisfy fans by taking things back to the source for a well-mounted slice of small-scale, intense horror…’

I’ve taken a while to get down with Chris Messina; not since Shelley Long played Diane Chambers in Cheers has a performer been thrown such an impossible sitcom arc as he had to navigate in The Mindy Project, and that kind of SNAFU is usually enough to put any career in traction. But he’s back on streaming next week opposite Kaley Cuoco in Peacock’s serial-killer series Based On A True Story, and is probably overqualified for his humble dad role in The Boogeyman, a straight-up no frills horror story adapted from a very early (ie 1973) Stephen King short story.

Messina plays Will Harper, a recently widowed psychiatrist who has two young children to protect, Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair) and her older teenage sister Sadie (Sophie Thatcher); it’s not surprising in the circumstances that the kids are wary of exactly what might spring from the closet. But when a disturbed man called Lester Billings (David Dastmalchian) appears on his doorstep, Will decides to take him in and listen to his cautionary tale, and that provides the jumping off point for some familiar tropes; creepy kids drawings of a Lovecraftian creature for a start. And is Sadie getting bullied at school? Relationships between parent and child are tested as the Boogeyman starts to emerge from the shadows to feed on familiar familial unhappiness.

The Boogeyman’s obvious weakness is that we’ve been here before, so there’s not too much to report in the way of surprises, but the traditionally young audience for horror should make such considerations irrelevant. Rob (Host) Savage‘s film manages to string out a story that’s more inspired by King than a literal adaptation, but the innovations generally land. The final reveal of the monster is very much like the giant spider creature that Pennywise uses in It, and those seeking a craftsman-like approach to horror should feel rewarded by the result, even if the bullying subplot carries more emotional weight than the flimsy central narrative.

The Boogeyman was originally set for streaming only, but King felt it could work in cinemas, and he’s right as usual. With a more serious tone than usual, The Boogeyman manages to avoid explaining itself on anything other than a primal level; there are bad things waiting in the dark, and that’s all we need to know. King has undisputedly been the go-to horror author for cinematic adaptation since the mid 70’s and his influence has inspired hundreds of films; The Boogeyman should satisfy his many fans by taking things back to the source for a well-mounted slice of small-scale, intense horror.

Thanks to Disney for big-screen access to The Boogeyman. Out June 2 in US and UK.


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    • This is a very smart little film, not big scale King, but satisfying enough to be worth a trip to the flicks.

      • Thoroughly enjoyed this. A real director at work. Everything was suggestion and slow build-up. The light ball was a very clever idea and the ending with the candle flame swiping left was inspired. Some great images – the tooth on a string being pulled from her throat, the madwoman tying her up as bait for the monster, the blood that turns blue. A great mixture of investigation and fright. This was the middle picture in my Monday triple bill – Hypnotics first and Reality last.

    • Big time. I’m glad I saw this in the cinema. Very classy package, all that is missing is surprises, it all pans out in conventional style. But compared to the recent Firestarter or other recent King adaptations, it’s a slick film.

  1. I think Stephen King is a national treasure – I won’t watch this, because I’m just not into straight up horror, but he has given us so many great books, the led to so many great films.

    This is probably going to sound weird, given how well known he is and how many books he’s sold, but I think King is underrated.

    He’s got some great stories about the human condition and just gets written off by critics as just pumping out airport thrillers.

    I’m not saying he’s William Faulkner, but he’s in a different league than say, James Patterson.

    • Probably read more Stephen Jing than any other author, and no regrets about it at all. Brilliant grasp of character and plot, great connection with readers, terrific knowledge of other writers and appreciation for the form. And while there’s always a backlash from extreme popularity, critics are just jealous of a writer who has been a household name for half a century. He may be the first writer that springs to everyone’s mind, but he is also, exactly as you say, underrated, and hopefully this will keep today’s youth engaged with King.

    • 1973 is about as modern as things get. This is certainly one of the better adaptations, but with so many films and so many rip-offs, teens are the ideal audience for this since many adults have been here too many times…

      • I guess it’s like the Disney remakes and reboots. A new generation doesn’t remember the originals so they just put the whole playlist of ’80s and ’90s culture on repeat. Seems like they should be coming up with some new stuff though instead of all this graverobbing. Unless the culture really is as exhausted as some commentators, like Kurt Andersen. think.

        • My theory is that you could release Halloween/Friday 13th reboots every year and as long as there’s enough teens up for a scare, that audience will always be there…

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