Between television and film, people have adapted Stephen King’s work over one hundred times, so there is quite literally no point stating where this adaptation of his work stands with the other works other than the great, the good, and the bad, and that can only happen if I’ve seen all of the works, which I have not. All of this is to say that the latest adaptation of one of his short story into a full-length feature, The Boogeyman, may not be as revered as the prior adaptations of Carrie (1976), Stand by Me (1986), The Shawshank Redemption (1994), Misery (1990), and so forth, because there is no arguing that those titles are classics. While The Boogeyman may not be a classic, it is still a perfectly ample work that certainly will satisfy audiences looking for something a little more thrilling but still spooky this season. Rob Savages’s watchful direction (potential politics aside) brings the scares to life front and center supported by a superb cast and a trio of writers consisting of Scott Beck (A Quiet Place), Bryan Woods (A Quiet Place), and Mark Heyman (Black Swan), who all transform King’s short story into a full-length feature packed with suspense and frights.
The film focuses on the Harpers: Sadie, Sawyer, and their dad Will (Sophie Thatcher, Vivien Lyra Blair and Chris Messina, respectively) as they’re all trying to cope with the passing of their mother/wife. While Sawyer is a little too young to full comprehend what has happened, Will tries to bury himself in his work as a therapist to deal with the grief, and Sadie is the one who truly is suffering the most with her inability to process everything that’s happened and is struggling to navigate everyday life.
The worst possible thing has happened, and after Will reluctantly agrees to see a patient who walked into his home office without an initial phone consult, things somehow manage to take a turn for worse. Lester Billings (David Dastmalchian) is the mystery patient who’s confiding in Will the great amount of stress and guilt he is carrying after his children “mysteriously vanished” due to a demon he saw, even though everyone thinks it was him. He can no longer deal with the guilt he is ridden with despite his pleas of innocence and takes his own life inside the home, thusly releasing the demon from him, and freeing it to go and haunt the Harpers. Sawyer and Sadie must work together to stop this demon and save themselves before it becomes too late.
With any work of Stephen King, there is always the assumption of something terrifying and creepy lurking in the background, and The Boogeyman certainly conveys that. However, it is not just a “monster” movie that features scares and suspense, but is a movie about grief and loss and how everyone handles those things differently. While it could be argued that the demon/boogeyman is a figment of their imagination and everyone sees it differently because of the way they process grief, the events that take place in the film certainly give a hard time to that theory. Regardless though, the theories of grief and that unspeakable evil that haunts us, are front and center in this engaging and vaguely terrifying adaptation of The Boogeyman.
Aside from the adaptation from a short to a full-length feature working, there is always some fat to be trimmed from the final product, but it is nitpicking at best; the story is fully fleshed out and does a great job at giving the cast something to chew on and create a tense world for the audience to engage in. Moreover, though, it is the performances, mainly the one from Sophie Thatcher, that are the undeniable binding glue that holds The Boogeyman together. She is simply incredible and continues to make a mark for herself in the larger landscape of Hollywood. Her performance is believable and grounded, engrossed in terror and anxiety. Chris Messina is great as the father figure that has to put on a brave face while also not knowing how to process his own trauma. Lastly though, David Dastmalchian, who’s only in the movie for a few minutes, is absolutely bone-chilling, creating a tense world for the rest of the film to marinate in and one of chaos for audiences to explore.
Overall, The Boogeyman is less horror and more suspense, but creates for a tense and creepy viewing that focuses more on grief than it does the monster horrors that are the namesake of the movie itself. With some incredible performances from the leads, good directing and a strong screenplay, The Boogeyman will haunt you with its underlying message and maybe check the closet and under the bed for the next night or two.
Available on digital August 29th, 2023.
Available on Hulu October 5th, 2023.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD October 10th, 2023.
For more information, head to the official 20th Century Studios The Boogeyman webpage.
Final Score: 3.5 out of 5.
This piece was written during the SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labor of the actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.