The Boogeyman Is Underwhelming But Still Fun

Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios

I was really excited for The Boogeyman. It’s based on a short story of the same name by my favorite author of all time, Stephen King, and it’s directed by Rob Savage, one of my favorite horror filmmakers working today, so it seemed like it had all the makings of a great time at the theater. I had high hopes for the film, and after finally getting the chance to see it, I’m happy to report that I enjoyed it quite a bit.

The Boogeyman stars Sophie Thatcher, Chris Messina, Vivien Lyra Blair, Marin Ireland, Madison Hu, LisaGay Hamilton, and David Dastmalchian, and it’s about two sisters, Sadie and Sawyer Harper, who are reeling from the recent death of their mother. Their father Will is a therapist, but ironically, he pretty much refuses to talk about his family’s tragic loss or help his daughters cope with it.

It’s a pretty tough situation all around, and things get even worse for these characters after a mysterious man named Lester Billings visits Will and asks for help. He has a pretty crazy story, so understandably, Will doesn’t take him too seriously. However, soon after this strange encounter, Sadie and Sawyer become the targets of a malevolent creature that hides in the shadows and feeds on their fear.

Like I said before, I had a pretty good time with The Boogeyman, but if I’m being honest, I have to admit that it’s not quite as good as I wanted it to be. In fact, it’s actually a pretty mixed bag, so even though I liked it overall, I also had some big problems with it.

Most notably, the story is rather bland and generic. It follows a ton of standard tropes we’ve seen in countless other films, like the mysterious person who’s encountered the monster before, the distant father who’s too caught up in his own grief to help his kids work through theirs, and the children who encounter the creature way before the adults do. It almost feels like a greatest hits of horror storytelling, so you’d be hard-pressed to find anything particularly new or groundbreaking here.

A man looking distressed
Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios

In fact, just about the only thing in The Boogeyman that doesn’t feel like a total cliche is its message, but that has its own problems. Somewhat like Lights Out, the monster in this film prefers darkness and flees from the light, and that ends up being a metaphor for the Harpers’ struggle with their grief.

At its core, the movie is all about how we can’t just bottle up our pain and keep it inside. Instead, we have to bring it out into the light and talk about how we feel, and when we do that, we’ll be able to heal our wounds and help others heal theirs as well. It’s pretty on the nose, and if you don’t catch it on your own, the film makes it pretty obvious in the final few scenes.

Now, on paper, that sounds like a really great message, but I had a few problems with the way it was executed. For starters, it’s a bit too on the nose for my tastes, and the way The Boogeyman hammers it home at the end even made me roll my eyes a little. Secondly, and more egregiously, even though it’s a good message in itself, it’s conveyed largely through cliches like the emotionally unavailable father, and that saps it of a lot of its potency.

On top of that, I also wasn’t a big fan of the characters in The Boogeyman, and that diluted the message’s effectiveness even further. Don’t get me wrong, these characters aren’t bad, but I just wasn’t able to forge any sort of deep connection with them. The movie never made me truly care about their plight, so its message simply didn’t hit as hard as it could or even should have.

A man reading something
Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios

Now, at this point, you might be wondering why I liked this film at all. With mediocre characters and a bland story, what could’ve possibly tipped the scales in the other direction? It’s the horror. When it comes to scares, director Rob Savage has proven multiple times that he’s a master craftsman, and this film is no different. The horror in it is just that good, so even though the rest of the movie is pretty forgettable, I still had a good time with it overall.

In particular, The Boogeyman has some absolutely top-notch jump scares. Sometimes they come with a lot of buildup, and other times they seem to come out of nowhere, but either way, they’re always super effective. There’s even one scare involving a door that literally made my jaw drop, so yeah, this film is the real deal.

What’s more, I also loved the sound in The Boogeyman. I’ve heard it said that if a horror movie is too intense for you, you should cover your ears, not your eyes, because the music is what really makes it scary, and this film exemplifies that idea to a tee. Not only does the music get under your skin in a way few horror scores can, but the titular monster also makes some of the creepiest sounds I’ve heard in a while.

It’s just the perfect blend of spine-tingling audio and visuals, so it manages to outweigh everything the movie does poorly. Granted, if you’re not a fan of mindless scare fests, you probably won’t like this film. But if you’re okay just sitting back, relaxing, and enjoying some effective scares, you’ll probably have a good time with The Boogeyman. Granted, it won’t be one of your favorite films of the year, but I think you’ll enjoy it enough to make it worth your while.

The Boogeyman is playing in theaters right now.

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Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong horror fan. From a very early age, he learned to love monsters, ghosts, and all things spooky, and it's still his favorite genre today.

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