Film Review: The Boogeyman

FIFTY+SA Arts Reviewer, Dave Bradley, reviews the latest supernatural horror film by director Rob Savage, The Boogeyman (MA).

WORDS: Dave Bradley, Arts Reviewer

Director Rob Savage’s filming of Stephen King’s 1973 short story drastically expands the material and changes the whole focus of the action, and yet King himself has given it his thumbs-up. Bless him.

Savage is best-known for two offerings: the cool (if ridiculous) Dashcam, and Host, a COVID-lockdown-shot not-quite-feature that includes one of the mightiest jump-scares in cinematic history. And he’s in precarious territory here: filmings of King’s writing tend to work better when they’re drawn from his novels (the various versions of Carrie, The Shining, The Stand, Misery, and more), and not so well when they’re taken from his slimmer pieces (The Mangler, The Lawnmower Man, and so on – and on).

The original tale (read it now in the first King collection, Night Shift) followed the hapless Lester Billings as he recounted a life of supernatural horror to his psychiatrist, and then (obviously but still creepily) had the psychiatrist peel off his mask and reveal himself to actually be the much-feared Boogeyman (um, spoilers!!!), while here it’s the psychiatrist and his family who are turned into the protagonists. Therapist Dad Will Harper (Chris Messina), teen daughter Sadie (Sophie Thatcher, also in TV’s Yellowjackets) and young Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair) are still reeling after the recent death of the family matriarch in a car accident, and while the devastated Will throws himself into his work, his daughters are mostly left to help each other through their grief.

Will’s office is in their home (really???), and when he apparently (and conveniently) seems to forget to lock the front door, he meets Lester Billings (the ever-intense David Dastmalchian), who lets himself in and begins to recount a tale similar to the one in the source story. When Will freaks out, Lester gets loose in the Harper home, and eventually an evil force is unleashed as part of a curse similar to the one in It Follows and the pic that rather ripped it off, last year’s Smile.

A supposedly child-stealing monster starts sneaking around the house, and when the girls try to tell Will of the danger to them all, he refuses to believe it, thinking that it’s all a kind of post-traumatic stress disorder, and even as the light-hating, wall-crawling beast gets closer and closer to Sadie and Sawyer.

Despite pretty strong performances, there are thorny problems here: screenwriters Scott Beck, Bryan Woods and Mark Heyman rely upon too many contrivances and credibility gaps; a subplot involving a loopy previous victim of the curse doesn’t really work; and, unfortunately, the creature itself is finally revealed as fairly goofy-looking, and far more Boogeykangaroo than Boogeyman.

Odd, that.

The Boogeyman (MA) is now playing at selected cinemas.

6 out of 10 STARS

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