Despite pulling on just about every cliche in the book, The Boogeyman manages to use them all in terrifying new ways that’s sure to delight horror fans.
Everybody knows the rules of horror. Never turn the lights off, never look after the noise in the closet, and never, ever, ever explore the basement alone. These are cliches that beg for consequence, and as such, have been used so many times by the genre it’s a miracle they still work at all.
Directed By: Rob Savage
Written By: Scott Beck, Bryan Woods, Mark Heyman
Starring: Sophie Thatcher, Vivien Lyra Blair, Chris Messina, David Dastmalchian
Release Date: June 2, 2023
This is probably why it’s so mystifying that The Boogeyman, a trope-filled thriller with very little filler, is as genuinely terrifying as it manages to be. The film, which does not shy away from its use of old-school scare tactics, is a supernatural fright fest that refuses to pump the brakes. Unfortunately, it’s greatest strength may also be it’s greatest weakness, as a commitment to suspense dampens the picture’s emotional beats and flattens it’s grand finale.
The last several years have seen a rise in arthouse horror, a new style within the genre that has sought to transform compelling character pieces into something a little more sinister. The Boogeyman, however, is almost refreshing in the way it doubles down on a traditional structure…
Directed by Rob Savage and based on a classic short story from Stephen King, it’s not some troubling, deep analysis of the human psyche that uses spooky goings-on as a means to its end. Instead, its simply a movie that wants to petrify its audience and send them home with a more noticeable fear of the dark. In this, it succeeds, ramping up the fright factor early in its runtime and holding onto a breakneck sense of urgency through the closing credits.
Its likely this pacing, maintained through a tight 90-minute interval, that makes the film as distressing as it quickly becomes. There aren’t any revolutionary jump scares happening onscreen, but each comes so close after the last that the viewer barely has time to recover. That specific form of horror, in which one does not know exactly when or where the next shock will appear from, is incredibly effective, too.
The Boogeyman, like its titular monster, preys on the unease of the unknown, using what the audience can’t see as an unstoppable weapon against them. The resulting, mostly gore-less feature is often harder to watch than many of the year’s bloodiest projects, proving the cerebral may, in fact, be mightier than the grotesque.
That being said, a movie – no matter how scary – should still be trying to tell a story. The Boogeyman gives it a shot, thankfully, but comes up short where it matters most. Between all the ghoulish moments of eyes lurking behind closet doors, there’s an attempt at a tale of family and the true power of love.
Again, the film is steeped in cliché, and while viewers might not be asking much from the non-horror aspects of its script, it needs to deliver a bit more to rise above the potential of obscurity. Particularly, a shred of additional time spent with the surprisingly likable central characters before their ultimate calamity would have done wonders for the film’s third act. There’s an emotional through line that runs betwixt the madness, but a lack of elaboration or dissection of said plot point means it fails to land with the intended impact when everything comes together in the movie’s final minutes.
Star Wars alumnis Sophie Thatcher and Vivien Lyra Blair give outstanding performances as the young pair of sisters fighting off evil, the latter continuing to hone in on the spectacularly sassy signature of her growing career. Nevertheless, the combined effort is not enough to make the movie memorable.