The Boogeyman (2023)

Rating: C

Dir: Rob Savage
Star: Sophie Thatcher, Chris Messina, Vivien Lyra Blair, Marin Ireland

It feels as if everything Stephen King ever wrote has been turned into a film. Can Stephen King’s Shopping List be far away? But apparently there are still entities to be mined, this being based on a short story by King, originally published in 1973.  It’s only a dozen pages long, so stretching it out to feature length required some major work. The original story was simply Lester Billings recounting the story to therapist Dr. Harper, of how the titular monster was behind the death of his three children. The twist – and I feel 50 years is enough for the statute of limitations to have passed on spoilers – is that the doctor turns out to be the boogeyman in disguise.

The film does include Billings visiting Dr. Harper (Messina) at his home office and telling his tale. However, Billings hangs himself after the doctor becomes concerned and steps away to call the police. In the film, this “transfers” the attentions of the boogeyman to Harper’s family. He recently lost his wife in a car accident (non-Boogeyman related, apparently), so it’s just him, sullen teenager Sadie (Thatcher) and adorable moppet Sawyer (Blair). It’s Sawyer who is first targeted, being already scared of the dark and the monsters under her bed or in her closet. At first, her sister is unconvinced, but as the weird events escalate, she’s eventually convinced, and reaches out to Billings’s widow, Rita (Ireland). She knows more about the events which happened, first to her family, and now Sadie’s.

As PG-13 horror, it’s okay. Savage is far too reliant on jump scares, most of which are entirely predictable in nature – there is one exception, I will admit, which worked very well. It also relies upon characters who, all too often, behave in ways which run entirely counter to any instinct of self-preservation. The other glaring flaw is simply how badly Dr. Harper’s house is illuminated. Seriously, I’ve seen brighter lit caves. For someone scared of the dark, Sawyer is surprisingly happy to sit in it and play video games (top). And after Sadie is told by Rita that the boogeyman abhors the light, her next stop is not Floodlights R Us, as it logically should be – because there needs to be deep shadows in which the monster can lurk menacingly, for cinematic purposes.

Aside from these criticisms, it’s still reasonably entertaining, even if I rolled my eyes at Sadie responding to the threat by… inviting all her teenage pals over for a party! Fortunately, it doesn’t go down that obvious route. The finale actually generates a reasonable amount of energy, as the family puts their issues aside and comes together to fight their common enemy. The monster is a cool design as well, an angular creation that’s all claws and teeth, and you can certainly understand the fear seeing it would cause. It should have a word with its agent though, as the boogeyman needs to be making better choices when it comes to choosing scripts.

[The Boogeyman is out in cinemas today]