Sophie Thatcher as Sadie Harper in 20th Century Studios' THE BOOGEYMAN. Photo by Patti Perret. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.
ManOfTheCenturyMovie Film ‘The Boogeyman’ review: In this Stephen King adaptation, the real monster is a terrifying lack of subtlety

‘The Boogeyman’ review: In this Stephen King adaptation, the real monster is a terrifying lack of subtlety

Sophie Thatcher as Sadie Harper in 20th Century Studios' THE BOOGEYMAN. Photo by Patti Perret. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

At the beginning of Rob Savage’s “The Boogeyman,” an obsessed Lester Billings (David Dastmalchian) (understandably, given what we learn about his tragic backstory) attempts to exhibit a guarded attitude (understandably, given what we learn about his tragic backstory) Will Harper (Chris Messina) a hand-drawn image of the monster that Lester says killed his three young children. That there is an actual monster at play in this Stephen King adaptation is not in dispute – the film’s opening moments even show the monster crawling out of a wardrobe, whispering a horrific mix of human simian conversation and animal moans and killing a child – but the form it takes, both literal and figurative, is initially presented as a mystery.

However, whatever therapist Will sees in his patient Lester’s drawing (and in Lester himself) is enough to send him straight to the police; since we don’t even see the image when he does, he hints at a subtle and devious horror tale to come. Too bad: Savage’s film, written by ‘A Quiet Place’ creators Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, along with ‘Black Swan’ scribe Mark Heyman, quickly strips away the core questions of King’s gruesome tale: What is Man Black and what does he want? -and reveals both the monster and his bloodlust in surprisingly short order. Neither King’s story nor Savage’s occasionally clever direction lacks compelling ideas, but once “The Boogeyman” commits himself to becoming a distinctive screeching and frightening creature, most of his merits are violated and trimmed into oblivion. .

Seemingly built on the profound horror that is grief, Savage’s film opens with the introduction of two broken families: Lester’s three children are dead, and he is forced to share what happened to them with Dr. Harper, a man going through his own heartbreak. after his beloved wife recently died in a car accident. When we first meet the remaining Harpers, including teenager Sadie (Yellowjackets star Sophie Thatcher, and the real star of this film) and teenager Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair), it’s a month before their daughter dies. mother and stuff like that. they are not doing well. The girls are finally heading back to school and Will is seeing patients again in his home office, but communication between the trio is at an all-time low (which Will sends Sadie and Sawyer to another therapist, because he is unable to talk to them about their pain, is one of the most compelling parts of the film). Enter: Lester.

When her battered husband and father appears in Will’s office, even he – the world’s most repressed man – can’t deny it. And then Lester starts telling a story about a monster that kills children, his children when their parents do not pay enough attention to them. Sound familiar, Will? Soon, Will is calling the police, Lester is coming down the second floor of the house, and oopsie, Sadie is there too, who snuck home after a really awful first day at school. She points to the eerie sounds (Russell Topal’s sound design remains unnerving throughout the film), lurking dark shadows, slamming doors, and at least one more horrific death. Suddenly, the Boogeyman is the Harpers’ problem, and oh, what a problem it is.

“The boogeyman”Patti Perretto

Yet while Savage’s film soon unmasks our monstrous villain (and, yes, he looks just like a cousin of the “Quiet Place” aliens, whatever that’s worth), the perimeters of this seemingly ancient evil remain murky — we know you don’t like the light, but what’s the matter with water everywhere? does it feed on pain or abandonment? is it a spider, and if not, what’s the matter with the damn cobwebs? and, really, why can’t someone just turn on some damn lights? After the Boogeyman begins terrorizing young Sawyer, headstrong Sadie is forced to investigate (Messina going MIA during long stretches of the film is either astute character choice or the product of bad programming; it is unclear whichever is the case).

Thatcher (who looks a little like Anya Taylor-Joy and sounds a lot like Emma Stone) is a captivating screen presence, but she’s hampered by a script that forces her into classically silly situations: don’t go to the cellar! why are you opening that door? shine a damn light! However, this new take on the Boogeyman story calls for some sort of human hero, and Thatcher boldly steps forward. Like her little sister, Blair is also quite good at it and deftly telegraphs both terror and drama without going overboard. (That no one initially believes that Sawyer is as creepy to her as her monster in her house; it’s a hard line that Blair taps into easily.)

Vivien Lyra Blair as Sawyer in 20th Century Studios' THE BOOGEYMAN.  Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios.  © 2023 20th Century Studios.  All rights reserved.
“The boogeyman”20th century studios

There’s no shortage of good ideas here, from the heavy (like how different people grieve or, in some cases, Not grieve) to the highly intelligent (like how children’s nightmares can give way to real terror), but from the moment “The Boogeyman” reveals itself, Savage’s film ceases to be interesting or scary. There’s nothing scarier than things crashing in the night, but the terror dissipates easily once we turn on the light and see what’s there. Truly There. That’s the lesson of King’s story, but Savage’s adaptation fails to understand that there’s nothing scarier than the unknown.

Grade: c

Disney will release “The Boogeyman” in theaters on Friday, June 2.

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