“The Boogeyman,” in theaters June 2, is just the latest adaptation of the work of prolific master of horror Stephen King. And to stand out in an incredibly and increasingly crowded field, the new film had to be something special.
Long in development (long enough that it was being worked on when 20th Century Fox was still its own studio, only to be canceled and revived by 20th Century Studios now owned by Disney), it’s unfortunate to report that this Scary Last Attempt the story is a bit off, with cheap scares that get laughs more than screams and some big logic glitches.
“It’s not real. It’s not real. It’s not real.”
Timetables and tickets
Still reeling from the tragic death of their mother, a teenage girl and her younger sister find themselves plagued by a sadistic presence in their home and struggle…
What happens in “The Boogeyman”?
‘The Boogeyman’ is adapted (by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods of ‘A Quiet Place’s, with the most recent work of ‘Black Swan’s Mark Heyman) from King’s short story. Originally published in ‘Cavalier’ magazine in 1973, it was later collected in ‘Night Shift’ in 1978.
Centered on a 1970s take on an alpha male called Lester Billings who was traumatized by the death of his children at the hands (or claws) of a terrifying creature, it’s a fast and brutal tale with a twist, the one which the film takes as its basic concept and then develops.
Chris Messina plays Dr. Will Harper, a bereavement therapist for his wife, who recently died in a car accident. He raises his daughters Sadie (Sophie Thatcher) and Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair).
In Dr. Harper’s office lies Lester Billings (David Dastmalchian), who has a horrific story to tell: his children died, and although people will think he did, they were actually slaughtered by a mysterious shadow creature that hid in the dark and played with him and his family.
Harper calls the authorities, but Billings appears to commit suicide in an isolated closet in the Harper household, further traumatizing the good doctor and his daughters.
But that’s just the start of their problems – Sadie and Sawyer begin to see strange things, with Sawyer convinced she’s haunted by the same creature that ruined Billings’ life. But is this just a projection of their grief? And how does the widow of Billings (Marin Ireland) fit in?
Who else is in ‘The Boogeyman?
The cast also includes LisaGay Hamilton, Maddie Nichols, Madison Hu, Lacey Dover and Daniel Hagan.
Hopes for the director ‘Host’
A big plus for the film would seem to be the presence of wily British director Rob Savage, who caused a stir in 2020 with his creative and entertaining horror film ‘Host’ in which a zoom session held between friends during lockdown turns unfolds in a supernatural, bloody and fatally wrong way.
Savage followed that up with DASHCAM, the story of a rude and opinionated live DJ who encounters something awful when she offers an old woman a ride in her car. Both films take place entirely on computer (or phone) screens and are chilling and effective uses of this particular horror genre.
Yet given both the budget and the ability to expand beyond that, Savage here falters, let down by a corny storyline that has more tropes than storyline and more archetypes than characters.
While Savage brings a certain level of artistry to it all –– tilting camera shots, effective and evocative use of lighting in certain scenes, and a genuine sense of unease at one point –– it’s not enough to save a story that goes to ridiculous lengths to try to evoke some terror.
Messina and her young co-stars do what they can to bring their characters to life (Blair, a veteran of “Obi-Wan Kenobi” and “Yellowjackets”), with Thatcher acting appropriately when needed, but it’s is a lost cause in a film that will evoke giggles more than a desire to find blankets to hide under.
The film also fails to follow its own internal logic; when Sawyer is introduced as the grieving maiden sleeping with a variety of lights on before even being haunted and chased by the titular creature, it makes absolutely no sense that she later just sits alone in a dark room with just the dim light of a TV screen where she plays a PlayStation game to feel safe.
Then there’s the usual horror movie conventions unfolding for the 700th time – the daughters scream and make noise while their father lies unconscious in another room, the characters notice creepy black tendrils littering a hallway and a staircase but decide to investigate anyway. And in a scene that could come out of a horror parody, Sadie is led by a friend to a peculiar house she’s investigating, littered with graffiti labeling the occupant a murderer and with a bent mailbox on its post. by a vandal, only to be asked, “is this the house”? Yes, girl, we’re pretty sure this is home.
It all turns into something increasingly silly and chaotic, with characters making stupid decisions when a clear threat lurks, and the creature itself changing tactics mid-stream for no discernible reason. And don’t get us started on the therapist who decides that the best way to heal a traumatized child with dark-related issues is to immediately put them in a dark room. The movie makes way too many silly choices like this to be believable.
There are plenty of great Stephen King adaptations out there, on screens big and small. “The Boogeyman” is, sorry to report, not among them. It’s a nightmare that’s more likely to lurk in the trash than on the to-be-reviewed list.
‘The Boogeyman’ receives 3.5 out of 10 stars.
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“The Boogeyman” is produced by 21 Laps Entertainment and 20th Century Studios. It is set to hit theaters on June 2, 2023.