Let me start by saying that this is a straight-up monster-in-the-closet movie. I’m not sure what “the mind of Stephen King” was conjuring in his short story The Boogeyman, but my childhood fear of the boogeyman was more in line with a Michael Myers/Babadook sort of creeper lurking in the neighborhood. Nonetheless! The Boogeyman is indeed a movie that preys upon your fears of what may be (literally) lurking in the dark—in the corners, under furniture, or in the closets—of your home sanctuary. It is one of those first-world movie problems that immediately you think could be solved by simply turning on some lights. But, nay, that wouldn’t be any fun, would it?
The featured traumatized family consists of therapist dad Will (Chris Messina), teenager Sadie (Sophie Thatcher), and younger daughter Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair). They are already having a tough time, as the family is grieving the girls’ mom, who recently died in a car accident. The girls are processing while dad Will is burying his feelings. He seems more able to deal with his clients’ problems… so when a spooky stranger the with very-Stephen King name of Lester Billings (David Dastmalchian) walks into Will’s home office pleading for help, he offers to listen. Freaked-out Lester tells of his dead children and a sort of monster that stalked his family (while he himself was accused of their murder). Moments later, Lester hangs himself in their upstairs closet, which doesn’t actually help the family morale much.
It quickly becomes clear that whatever stalked Lester’s kids is now focused on Sawyer and Sadie. Since she’s a kid, Sawyer isn’t believed at first when she talks about the monster in the closet… but it doesn’t take long for vulnerable-yet-strong Sadie to get firsthand exposure to the beast that you can never quite see… (unless, of course, you turned on the G-D lights).
The Boogeyman has some REALLY solid scares, including a double-whammy early on. Props to the sound designers of this film, because they got me EVERY. TIME. Shoot, I’m embarrassed to admit that the fifth or sixth jump (where honestly I should have been prepared) had me fly sideways out of my seat in fear, practically shearing off my friend’s kneecap in the process. Jesus H.
Sophie Thatcher as teenage Sophie is quite wonderful as the lead, propelling the story with gravitas, intelligence, and a shadow of unprocessed grief. Her character is given room to breathe in the story, which is refreshing, making it as much of a slow-burn moody drama as a $h1t-your-pants horror thriller.
But for as much as I liked the film, I felt like it was 20 minutes too long… which was very surprising when I found out it clocked in at a rather efficient hour and a half with some change. Some of the scares started to be a bit repetitive, and, after a great build-up, the showdown unfolds exactly as expected (if you know how to read foreshadowing, like, at all).
But, still, I found myself pleasantly surprised with The Boogeyman, considering I went into it cold, with no context except the title. It must have teased as some of my deep-seated fears, considering how much it “got” me. The filmmakers know that what you CAN’T see is just about scarier than anything. Now I’m just going to go and turn on every light in the house for a while… and change my pants.