The Boogeyman (2023) Movie Review: Does not live up to the promise of Stephen King’s terrifying material

Does not live up to the promise of Stephen King’s terrifying material

The works of Stephen King have been prolifically adapted into movies for the last four decades. Such is the writer’s penchant for captivating his readers that producers have run behind him with empty chequebooks for most of his working life. Money chases money and successes like The Shining and The Shawshank Redemption have given filmmakers the incentive to adapt his novels.

But bear in mind, that with great powers come great responsibilities. Every movie that emanates from King’s works goes through the scrutiny of many eyes and voices. It is the case that many filmmakers budge under that pressure and consequently make a mess of their adaptions, a bug that severely inflicts Rob Savage, the director of The Boogeyman.

Savage puts up a frail fight against the operation of genre conventions and allows them to take over like the titular demon. It is ironic to compare The Boogeyman’s troubles with “The Boogeyman” but that is the unfortunate reality of the film.

The movie initially focuses on William Harper (Chris Messina), a therapist reeling from the loss of his wife to an accident. His daughters, young Sawyer and adolescent Sadie, have trouble coping. The broken family’s troubles increase manifold when an unexpected patient walks into the house.

This patient is Lester Billings (David Dastmalchian) who introduces himself as the grieving father of three children, all of whom died under mysterious circumstances. William phones the authorities as Lester’s time begins to run out. As fate would foretell, he commits suicide at the Harper residence, leaving his “disease” behind that quickly spreads. Following this tragic event, Sadie and Sawyer find themselves facing a formidable foe who wants to take advantage of their vulnerability and fractured sense of balance. 

The Boogeyman has been substantially revamped for this film adaptation. The original short story focuses on Lester’s narration of the curse affecting his family to Harper. Savage’s film moves past that conceit within minutes of its opening. It is a surprise for sure and a refreshing change to raise expectations. One can easily find merit in the idea as well. Sophie Thatcher (Young Natalie from Yellowjackets) and Vivien Lyra Blair (Bird Box) are exceptionally mature for their ages. Both actresses have showcased how well they can take on complex roles and Savage trusts his setup on their backs. 

While Messina is himself an accomplished performer, the film does not bank on his acting charms. He hardly features in the movie beyond the opening fifteen minutes. Grief and trauma – relating to the loss of a parent, especially – are powerful narrative tools. They can amplify granular emotions into big-scale moods and atmosphere that gradually builds up. The Boogeyman goes for a similar result but with an assuredly mediocre approach. While there are small twists here and there, Savage and the writers toe the generational genre line that has defined many storylines over the years.

Old tropes fail to be inspiring today when so much creativity has shaped modern films. Such tropes include the jump scares and jolts of freakish background sounds that are extensively used in The Boogeyman to evoke fright from the viewers. A couple of them might end up scaring you but most of them fall flat. The movie annoyingly uses repetitive strides to fester the same tone for many scenes. Even when there is scope to surprise the viewer, Savage fails to take note. He indulges to a fault these past techniques,  so much so that the thrill of watching the movie unfold is lost.

One thing The Boogeyman can be praised for is the design of the creature. It is inspired by years of illustrations and improvements and it does look spot-on in the film. Full disclosure; You might even have a night or two of no sleep after seeing the monster. The CGI work is stellar and brings to life King’s creation in a nightmarish way. Savage does not shy away from showing us the titular creature to impress it firmly onto us.

But The Boogeyman could have done with a lot more atmosphere, given the underlying trauma that the Harper family goes through. The storyline isn’t tightly wound and the character lines are not nearly as personal to invest us emotionally.

Sadie’s connection with her mother ought to have been one of the film’s pivotal benchmarks. Thatcher lives up to her billing stupendously but finds little support from the writers and Savage. Her arc remains unfinished by the end, and the same can be said for Sawyer. Even the way their dead mother manifests into the plot lacks believability. 

The suspension of disbelief achieves moronic levels as we eat through the runtime. Ultimately, The Boogeyman gets worse and less interesting as it goes on, which will surely be disappointing for fans of the original novel.  


Read More: The Boogeyman Ending Explained

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  • Verdict - 5.5/10

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