The Movie Waffler New to VOD - THE BOOGEYMAN | The Movie Waffler


A grieving family is menaced by an evil entity.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Rob Savage

Starring: Sophie Thatcher, Chris Messina, Vivien Lyra Blair, Marin Ireland, Madison Hu, David Dastmalchian, LisaGay Hamilton

The Boogeyman poster

In my early twenties I lived in a dingy bedsit with a patch of damp on the ceiling. Over the course of my tenancy that patch grew and festered, but because I'm Irish and thus live in perpetual fear of inconvenience, either to myself or others, I never bothered alerting my landlord to the problem. Then one day as a friend and I were sat on the couch playing FIFA on Playstation the ceiling collapsed on top of us. The moral of the story is, if you don’t confront your problems, you'll end up with your ceiling in your lap.

The Boogeyman review

In director Rob Savage's adaptation of Stephen King's 1973 short story The Boogeyman (Penned by A Quiet Place writers Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, along with Mark Heyman), a damp patch on the ceiling acts as a visual metaphor for issues left unresolved. The patch is in the bedroom of teenager Sadie Harper (Sophie Thatcher, best known to TV viewers for her role in Yellowjackets and to us wafflers for her part in sci-fi drama Prospect), who would probably tell her father about it in normal circumstances. But these aren't normal circumstances for the Harper family. Sadie's mother passed away a month ago and her father Will (Chris Messina) has immersed himself in his job as a therapist rather than confronting his grief or helping Sadie and her kid sister Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair) to process theirs. In this way The Boogeyman appears heavily influenced by Nanni Moretti's masterful examination of grief, The Son's Room, with Messina even sporting the same beard and pullover combo as the troubled therapist Moretti played in his film.

Moretti didn't have to deal with a monster that preys on those in mourning however. That's the situation the Harpers find themselves in when Will reluctantly agrees to humour an unstable man named Lester Billings (David Dastmalchian) who turns up at his office unannounced. Billings claims that after the accidental death of one of his children, a monster appeared and terrorised his two surviving kids before taking their lives. While Will is calling the cops, Billings hangs himself in a closet, adding to Sadie's trauma when she discovers his limp corpse.

The Boogeyman review

As Will tries to brush the incident under the carpet, sending Sadie to a fellow therapist (LisaGay Hamilton) rather than speaking with his daughter himself, Sawyer begins to have visions of a monster in her closet and lurking in the shadows of her home. Skeptical at first, Sadie chooses to believe her sister and begins an investigation into Billings' background.

King's short story was a brief twist-in-the-tale shocker. Savage and his writers have taken the story's basic premise, that of a therapist being confronted by a deranged man with wild claims, and expanded it into a feature that adds elements of M. Night Shyamalan to some classic horror tropes. It's not particularly original, but it understands the tropes of the genre and uses them to good effect. There's always something both creepy and melancholy about horror movies where a young protagonist has to take things into their own hands due to a useless parent, an idea that's worked in everything from Invaders from Mars to A Nightmare on Elm Street. A good horror protagonist is one who begins in a place of vulnerability before summoning up the courage to take on whatever particular threat they face. That's what we get here with Sadie, who is in a terrible state when we meet her, bullied by the sort of sociopathic teens that populate King's work and neglected by her dad. In confronting this particular boogeyman she finds the strength to face her fears. Thatcher brilliantly conveys this arc, making the transition in a manner that comes off as a natural progression rather than any sudden turn from cowering teen to badass monster hunter, and the writers are wise enough to remind us that she's often out of her depth.

The Boogeyman review

Savage calls on some classic childhood fears – the monster under the bed or in the closet, the thing that lurks in the shadows – and builds effective set-pieces around them. There's some clever use of unconventional light sources to riff on classic movie sequences like a video game controller aping the flash bulb of Jimmy Stewart's camera in Rear Window or a glowing ball that playfully recalls George C. Scott being terrorised in The Changeling. Savage cleverly keeps his titular monster in the shadows long enough for its lore to build up to the point where its physical manifestation is a mute point.

As someone who failed to understand the cheerleading for Savage's widely acclaimed debut Host (though I admired its resourcefulness) and found his followup, Dashcam, to be one of the most annoying movies I've ever had the misfortune to sit through, I have to confess I didn't have high hopes for The Boogeyman. What a pleasant surprise to find Savage proves a more natural fit in traditional horror filmmaking than the found footage sub-genre he came up in. At this point it's practically a miracle when a Stephen King adaptation turns out to be watchable, and by my calculations this is the best since 1995's Dolores Claiborne. If you are a fan of Host, look out for a cameo that appears to tie The Boogeyman into its cinematic universe.

The Boogeyman
 is on UK/ROI VOD now.

2023 movie reviews