The Boogeyman – A Stephen King Adaptation on the Border Between Nightmares and Reality

MOVIE REVIEW – The Boogeyman is a film focusing on a poignant, deeply human story. The film remains faithful to the dark atmosphere of Stephen King’s novel while attempting to take the horror genre to a new level. The superb acting and spectacular visual effects create an atmosphere that will terrify even the most casual viewer, although the film is not particularly memorable or outstanding in the genre.



The feeling of a monster hiding under your bed or in your closet is one of the universal fears, and there are few horror filmmaking techniques as effective as jump scares. These typical horror film elements are also seen in The Boogeyman – effectively, though lacking originality – in a relatively faithful adaptation of Stephen King’s 1973 novel of the same name. The titular monster resembles the alien creatures of the film Without a Voice, writers Scott Beck and Bryan Woods transpose the psychological and thematic effects of unresolved trauma into a monster movie, and director Rob Savage enhances the story with a credibly brave, self-aware, and sympathetic teenage girl performance by Sophie Thatcher.



This bogeyman loves family tragedies


Thatcher plays Sadie Harper, a reclusive high school student struggling with the death of her mother in a car accident. Though Sadie’s father Will (Chris Messina) works as a therapist, he’s too busy with his own grief to offer comfort to Sadie or her little sister Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair), who is terrified of the darkness. When a man named Lester Billings (David Dastmalchian) unexpectedly shows up at their home and tells of the mysterious deaths of his own three children, Will understandably calls the authorities. Before they arrive, Lester disappears into a room in the attic and apparently commits suicide.

Sadie is present when Will discovers the body, but even then she refers her daughter to Dr. Weller (LisaGay Hamilton), a grief counselor, rather than directly discussing her feelings. Meanwhile, Sawyer is convinced that a creature lurks in the dark corners of his room, waiting to prey on him after lights out. As Sadie tries to make sense of the escalating series of tragedies, she becomes almost obsessed with the details of Lester Billings’ life – and in particular the images of an otherworldly being – that she discovers in a notebook left in her father’s office. He soon becomes convinced that the creature is real and must find a way to defeat it before it slaughters him and the rest of his family.



A simple horror story with a complex psychological approach


Loss acts as a powerful emotional catalyst, so it is understandable that filmmakers use this theme to enhance their plot. However, in recent horror films, the theme of dead parents is even more prominent than in the golden age of Disney animation. This tendency not only simplifies the whole concept, but also presents a challenge that the makers cannot always meet, to combine this theme with really strong psychological thrills. That’s why we get films like The Boogeyman, which starts with a family’s grief and pain and ends with a concrete struggle to defeat a monster.

There’s nothing wrong with this shift – and it’s likely that young people can very much identify with what they see on screen. But in a genre that is increasingly demanding recognition, the sheer professionalism of filmmaking techniques is not going to propel a film to the top of the list. As writers, Beck and Woods have proven their ability to capture identifiable feelings of vulnerability and dread. In addition, Savage keeps the audience in constant suspense, his camera deftly playing with the light and shadow to scare us at just the right moment.

The bogeyman’s weakness, however, is that it relies too much on the mechanics of world-building and mood-setting, and for this reason it cannot be considered a truly memorable scary movie. In 1978, when John Carpenter directed his own ‘bogeyman’ film Halloween, he understood how frightening it is when a sociopathic killer cuts a bloody path through clean, bright, suburban normality.



Impressive, but not very creative horror


The script, meanwhile, devotes so much time to the search for Sophie that, in the midst of all the explanatory monologues and dialogue about the origin of the bogeyman, it seems to forget the members of the Harper family who are not on screen, even though they are supposed to spend most of their time in the same home, making the story feel a little contrived.

Savage’s directorial confidence maintains the film’s intensity even when the connective tissue between plot and theme, logic and tone, is tenuous at best. But even when working with professional collaborators such as Messina and the young Blair, it is Thatcher who sells us the unlikely reality of an old-time ghost preying on frightened and grieving people. The young actor plays the family member most determined to explore the emotional fallout of her mother’s death before it descends on the Harpers, and she deftly dances on the edge of despair, horror, or brave defiance, suggesting that Sadie believes she could move on if only she could decipher the monster’s mythology.

Whether or not there will be a sequel, Savage King’s adaptation is one of the best films of the title to date, and while not very creative in its use of fear-mongering, it is still very effective. The Boogeyman is a good film, but it’s not great, and yet it does a clever job of conveying the basic fear of the dark – but the effect is gone as soon as the lights are turned on and we leave the cinema.





The Boogeyman

Direction - 7.4
Actors - 7.5
Story - 7.6
Music/Audio - 7.4
Ambience - 8.2



The Boogeyman is a darkly atmospheric horror film that tells a deep human story while remaining relatively faithful to Stephen King's novel. Despite the impressive acting and spectacular visual effects, the film doesn't offer much new in the genre. It's a straightforward horror story with a complex psychological approach that confronts the audience with a fundamental fear of the dark, but the effect quickly wears off as soon as the lights are turned on and we return home from the cinema.

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BadSector is a seasoned journalist for more than twenty years. He communicates in English, Hungarian and French. He worked for several gaming magazines – including the Hungarian GameStar, where he worked 8 years as editor. (For our office address, email and phone number check out our impressum)

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