The title ‘The Boogeyman’ for a horror film is as run of the mill as they come, and per se, didn’t really excite me. What did excite me, though, was name of Rob Savage as the director. Savage had previously directed Host (2020)- an hour long lockdown period horror movie that takes place entirely on a zoom call. Host had really impressed me (for those wondering, it’s currently streaming on Prime Video) and hence with a few expectations, I went to see The Boogeyman. I wasn’t disappointed.
Savage does manage to create an eerie, unsettling atmosphere right from the beginning. And with masterful performances from the entire cast, some creative horror set pieces, and a brand new supernatural entity to fight against, The Boogeyman gets most of it right. Well, except the title (yes, this movie deserved a better title). So lets find out, what worked, and what didn’t.
Story & Screenplay
This 90 minute feature film is adapted from Stephen King’s 12 page short story, by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods. And it couldn’t have been an easy task. But Beck and Woods have shown a lot of flair and conviction in their writing. The kind of character depth we see for the main characters is usually something missing from horror cinema. But here, we get to understand each character well, and hence we develop a certain amount of care for them.
The story is of a bereaved family who have just lost their matriarch. Psychiatrist Will Harper (Chris Messina) is now the only parent to daughters Sadie (Sophie Thatcher) and Sawyer (a show stealing Vivien Lyra Blair). As the family is still trying to pick up the pieces, another tragedy takes place inside their house, this time involving a creepy stranger (David Dastmalchian). What follows is a series of unexplainable incidents inside the Harper household, in which a shadowy entity scares both the daughters. In typical horror movie fashion, the father refuses to believe them, and chalks it down to grief.
Grief and mental health do have a bearing on the overall story, mind you. It’s an important aspect of the proceedings. However, the writers couldn’t hammer home the point about depression and how some of our ‘ghosts’ are self created. A similar trope was much better depicted in the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House (strongly recommended) – but then again, Hill House is the gold standard in horror writing.
Having said that, the writers have utilised their source material well, and have, in fact, added some spark to it. It wouldn’t be wrong to suggest they’ve actually bettered King’s short story, and added complex layers to it. For that alone, they need to be praised.
Dialogues BGM and Direction
I truly believe that horror is a director’s genre. As much as the writers can write scary stuff, it’s the director who has to SHOW it on screen. And in that, director Rob Savage has done a fantastic job. The fear is real, you actually feel the chills in many scenes. While there are a few jump scares in the movie, Savage has not overdone it, which is always a good sign.
Coming up with new and innovative horror set pieces can’t be an easy task, but Savage has nailed it, even on this account. Barring a couple of scenes which feel gimmicky, most of the ‘horror’ is new and original (something that most horror films don’t boast).
Despite being a die hard horror fanatic, I still believe 90% of all horror content is trashy, and only 10% is watchable (probably 5% is good). Thankfully, The Boogeyman falls in the 10%ile. And a lot of credit should go to Savage for that.
The dialogues of the film really help us in understanding the characters better, and it was a smart move to make the father of the kids a psychiatrist. We do end up caring for these characters. The background music is also sufficiently creepy and aids the film well, though its not something you’ll remember once you leave the theatre.
A word for the cinematography – most of the film is extremely dark (there’s storyline reason for it too) and you may have troubles figuring out what’s happening on screen. While it is by design, it may still be a deal breaker for some audiences. I personally liked that they kept the movie dark.
There are majorly just 3 characters in the movie. Chris Messina, who recently turned out a fine performance in Air, is in sublime form even in this movie. You can sense his pain, his angst from his eyes. And Messina does a good job of trying to keep up a brave face in front of his daughters. Sophie Thatcher as the elder daughter Sadie is first rate, and avoids the clichés that most actors in similar roles fall victim to. Her performance was emotive, yet understated. And that’s a hard balance to achieve.
But the star of the show is young Vivien Lyra Blair as Sawyer. Not only has she done complete justice to her scared looking scenes, she has even nailed the emotional heft of her character. To be so talented at such a young age- one can only wonder how much she can grow as an actress.
The rest of the cast have done a decent job. Though a couple of actors in minor roles seem to be hamming.
The Boogeyman is one of the better horror movies to have come out in recent times, and it’s definitely worth a watch. Running in theatres.
Disclaimer: The above review solely illustrates the views of the writer.