Combustible Celluloid Review - The Boogeyman (2023), Scott Beck, Bryan Woods, Mark Heyman, Rob Savage, Sophie Thatcher, Chris Messina, Vivien Lyra Blair, David Dastmalchian, LisaGay Hamilton, Marin Ireland
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With: Sophie Thatcher, Chris Messina, Vivien Lyra Blair, David Dastmalchian, LisaGay Hamilton, Marin Ireland
Written by: Scott Beck, Bryan Woods, Mark Heyman
Directed by: Rob Savage
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for terror, violent content, teen drug use and some strong language
Running Time: 98
Date: 06/02/2023

The Boogeyman (2023)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Fraught in the Dark

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Unlike director Rob Savage's innovative earlier movies, this chiller hits a few too many familiar beats, but its attention to character and emotion — and a few good scares — put it over the top.

Will Harper (Chris Messina) finds himself caring for his two daughters — teen Sadie (Sophie Thatcher) and younger Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair) — after the death of the girls' mother in an auto accident. Will, a therapist, continues his work, but somehow can't deal with his own grief. Sadie encounters cruelty at school, and Sawyer develops an intense fear of the dark.

Will has an unexpected visit from a strange man, Lester Billings (David Dastmalchian), who tells a harrowing story: his three children all died, and while Lester appears to be guilty, the real killer was a terrifying monster, captured in a drawing by one of the children. While Will is off discretely calling the police, Lester hangs himself. Soon after, a monstrous presence — which only lurks in the dark — begins making itself known to the Harpers.

Based on a 1973 Stephen King short story that was published in his classic Night Shift collection (which has also yielded many other movies, including Children of the Corn), The Boogeyman was adapted by A-list scribes Scott Beck and Bryan Woods (A Quiet Place), with Mark Heyman (Black Swan). They have fleshed out a scant story that had just two characters in one location, but they have also borrowed the typical three-act structure of many other ghost/monster movies. (By comparison, a similar monster tale was executed with far more ingenuity in Lights Out.)

But director Savage — whose excellent Pandemic-era Host made clever use of the panels in a Zoom chat — still finds ways to make it work. He dives in on the characters' grief, which smoothes over certain logic holes and explains certain behaviors. And he goes all out with some nifty, spooky touches, such as Sawyer kicking her light-up ball down dark hallways to check for monsters. (Vivien Lyra Blair, in particular, is excellent, bringing some of the same pluck she brought to her Leia Organa in Obi-Wan Kenobi.) All in all, The Boogeyman should please most horror hounds.

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