The Boogeyman Brings A New Stephen King Story To The Screen

There is always something a little bit odd about seeing a scary movie in the summertime. I don’t know if it’s the heat, or the longer days or whatever, but for some reason it always seems to offset the mood for such a film. I remember seeing one of my first Stephen King adapted films, Pet Cemetery in the summer of 1991, and even then, I remember wondering what a summer release on a film like this would mean. When I first saw the preview of The Boogeyman, it came as a surprise. It wasn’t a film I had been following or was even aware of, but the preview drew me in.

The Boogeyman is based on the short story of the same name, written by Stephen King originally published in 1973 in the magazine Cavalier and later released in the compilation Night Shift in 1978. This compilation has seen other of his works turned into big screen adaptations such as “The Lawnmower Man”, “Jerusalem’s Lot”, “Graveyard Shift”, and “Children of the Corn” among others. All of these films, including The Boogeyman, were met with mixed results, some turning into classics, while others turning into those late-night films you watch at 2AM while battling extreme insomnia. The question of course is whether The Boogeyman could rise to the top or settle to the bottom.

The Boogeyman stars Chris Massina as Will Harper, grieving the loss of his wife, and trying to maintain his role as both a father to his two daughters and as a therapist. One fateful day a man knocks on his door, desperately needing someone to talk to. Will is reluctant to speak with him without an appointment but fears he may be this man’s only hope. This chance encounter is a prelude of what is to become and unknowingly opens the door to a malevolent force hell bent on devouring the very souls of those it encounters.

His eldest daughter Sadie (Sophie Thatcher) struggles to fit in at school while dealing with the hole that has been left inside her with the loss of her mother. Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair), the youngest, already has a perpetual fear of the dark, a place where The Boogeyman finds solace and hunts for both sport and food. The entire family must find a way to work together, to strengthen their own bonds, and learn to communicate if they plan to survive the torment that only The Boogeyman can provide.

The Boogeyman is chalk full of jump scares but lacks much of the atmosphere that this type of movie should produce in spades. For a small child, Sawyer is often left alone in her room, while she knows full well that something…is really there. She is far braver than I am, because I can guarantee after seeing what she sees the first night, I’d be sleeping with every light on and in some other room entirely. There is a portion of the film where Sadie investigates the man who visited her father, attempting to uncover what the being is and its true nature. This particular area of the film seems disjointed from the story as a whole, and while uncovering the truth behind the malevolent force is a good idea, it’s what she encounters instead that caused my eyes to roll.

Thankfully, while the story itself may feel a bit contrived, it’s the stars of the film itself that keep it from sinking completely. Vivien Lyre Blair does an absolutely believable job of delivering a sense of continuous fear and strength as the young Sawyer. She completely steals the show from the rest of the cast. That’s not to say Sophie Thatcher and Chris Messina did not perform admirably as well, particularly in their roles of damaged therapist and angsty teen.

The Boogeyman was originally meant to be a direct to stream film on Hulu, but thankfully test audiences convinced the studio to go with a large screen release instead. I will say that this movie (and frankly many horror movies in general) are meant to be seen with a group of theater goers. While the film isn’t particularly scary, the jump scares throughout certainly left many literally leaping out of their seats. Driving a sense of tension and uneasiness that really can’t be duplicated at home. Seeing it in theaters for this reason alone makes the cost of admission almost worth it.

The Boogeyman isn’t a bad film, not by any means. It’s thoughtfully acted, and the plot, while something that’s been done a million times, still has a few surprises in store for the audience. If you can see it for a matinee price (even though as I discussed earlier, a daytime summer showing might detract from the entire mood), it’s worth the price of admission for the audience reaction alone. At the end of the day, it’s a good scary movie, although never reaches any level of greatness. There are far worse movies, certainly far worse movies that were based on the same Stephen King compilation, it just becomes instantly forgettable once you leave the theater. I had high hopes for the film, and sadly it just couldn’t reach them, but it was enjoyable all the same.

3 out of 5 stars