Film and TV

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
The Boogeyman

Title: The Boogeyman

Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote:
HOMER: Bart, I don't want to alarm you, but there may be a boogeyman or boogeymen in the house!
Brief Plot Synopsis: For once, a kid isn't lying about monsters under the bed.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 2.5 Wayne Gretzkys out of 5.
Tagline: "Leave the lights on."

Better Tagline: "Seriously, *any* lights."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: The Harper family — therapist dad Will (Chris Messina) and daughters Sadie (Sophie Thatcher) and Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair) — are struggling to deal with the recent death of their mother in a car accident. The last thing they need is some weird dude named Lester Billings (David Dastmalchian) claiming a closet monster killed all three of his kids. And now this monster is looking for some new prey.
"Critical" Analysis: Stephen King's short story, "The Boogeyman," is on the list of the scariest things he's ever written. Originally included in 1978's Night Shift collection, it's also one of King's many stories that was overdue to get a theatrical adaptation.

Rob Savage's feature film was originally slated to go straight to Hulu, but initial reactions (including from King himself) convinced 20th Century Studios to roll it out in theaters. Was this the right move? Yes, in the sense that it's always nice to get horror on the big screen. No, in that there's nothing about The Boogeyman that screams, "See it in theaters!" (epic scope, mind-boggling effects, or originality).

Part of that is a natural result of expanding the source material. The original story takes place entirely in Harper's office, while the movie introduces the monster almost as a manifestation of parental neglect. Will the therapist, ironically, is unable to talk about the loss of his wife with his kids, especially teenaged Sadie, who repeatedly attempts to connect with him about her mother's death.

A little on the nose perhaps. Thatcher and Blair shoulder the load of the story, especially the former, fresh off playing young Nat in Yellowjackets, Thatcher's balance of grief and adolescent misery would be fraught enough even without a little sister claiming a shadow monster lives in her closet. And Blair provides Sadie with a compelling reason to fight the thing that's entered their lives.
click to enlarge
"A leprechaun? Son of a..."
Savage's approach expands on the story further by associating the monster in the house with the specter of grief hovering over everyone. It's not subtle enough to maintain the "is the boogeyman real or not?" façade, but it makes sense. Will is checked out for almost the entire film, leaving Sadie and Sawyer to deal with the horror on their own.

But for such ostensibly smart kids, they don't really act that way. It's pretty clear early on that the boogeyman avoids light, yet the Harper's house is apparently chronically short on light bulbs. And for a creature that's allegedly been creeping around since the advent of human history, you'd think someone between Cro-Magnon and now would've figured out how much it doesn't like fire.

Dumb character decisions are made (the best one might be Sadie arming herself with a hockey stick after the creature absorbs about a dozen shotgun blasts with no apparent ill effects), and the handful of legit scares are sidelined by how generic The Boogeyman feels. Thatcher and Messina deserve better than this.

The Boogeyman in in theaters today.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar