Mike’s Review: The Boogeyman (2023)

★★★★ out of ★★★★★

🩸🩸🩸out of 🩸🩸🩸🩸🩸 not for blood and gore, but for intense situatons and jump scares.      

Directed by Rob Savage.

Hard to believe that a 25-page story could be turned into a feature length film, but it has! The Boogeyman, originally released in 1978, was a taut and rather dark affair that explored the most corrupt fears in parenting. Fast forward 45 years and the Boogeyman is back as a full-on fright-fest. 

If you haven’t had a chance to read up on the Boogeyman (again, it is 25 pages long and it’s been out for 45 years), it follows a deeply fractured individual, Lester Billings, who barges into a psychiatrist’s office to talk about the death of his children at the hands of…THE BOOGEYMAN! 

The story takes on a far more morbid tone than the film that we won’t spill here, but just know that Lester is legitimately disturbed for a reason. It’s unclear why director Rob Savage (Host and Dashcam) chose a somewhat different path than the original story, but he most definitely did. 

The 2023 film adaption does allow for a deeper exploration of the family unit and the often frayed ties that bind us all. In Savage’s adaption, the psychiatrist, Will Harper (Chris Messina), does indeed receive a brief and haunting visit by Lester Billings (David Dastmalchian). While their chilling visit touches on many of the same elements of King’s short story, the film adaptation takes on a horrible twist that effectively allows Lester Billings to transfer the Boogeyman to the Harper family. 

Problem is, the Harper family is already dealing with the recent loss of the matriarch, and psychiatrist Will Harper is left to clumsily parent his two distraught children. The children absolutely sell the film. The angsty teen played by Sadie Harper (Sophie Thatcher) and her already night-fright addled younger sister Sawyer Harper (Vivien Lyra Blair) turn in exceptional performances that are right on par with the children in 2022’s Black Phone. The perfect blend of heroics, trauma, and fear.

Once the Boogyman has been transferred to the Harper family they’re forced to deal with loss and tragedy, and a busted family dynamic. Rest assured, this is not On Golden Pond or Terms of Endearment. Quite the opposite. As soon as the family is forced to contend with their flaws is when the jump-scare count ratchets up — way up! 

Safe to say, this reviewer jumped clean out of his seat five times — maybe six. In my defense, the theater was entirely empty, but the jump scares are well developed and well earned. Frankly, they’re the types of jump scares that play with dim light, flashing lights, and moments of look left-look right, but even though you can see them coming they work exceptionally well. When paired with the family on the verge of collapse, the Boogeyman mythos is able to come into full focus. 

ATMOSfx! Woo!
I’d love to tell you it’s going to be all right, but I’m not sure that’s the case here.

The film doesn’t necessarily plow any new ground, save for the fact that this particular Stephen King story had never been made into a full length film. It was however made into several short films in 1982 and 2010. And it was also adapted into a full length theatrical play. That said, it’s like many films that we’ve seen over the last several decades that play with light as their main conceit. The difference is the quality of the filmmaking and care for the characters that separates Boogeyman from far lesser chaff like Lights Out and Oculus

Probably one of the most clever elements of Boogeyman is the Boogeyman himself. Director Savage takes great care to slowly reveal the Boogeyman, and it’s not until the climatic scene that you get a full sense for the vile and evil Boogeyman and his otherworldly shape. By holding out on audiences, Savage is able to create real mystery and dread around this beastie. 

The Boogeyman is really that summer creature feature that we all need. At its foundation is a truly chilling story, but more important are the JUMP SCARES! Boogeyman is a solid horror feature and we at the Scariest Things Podcast are pleased as punch that Rob Savage has continued his journey down the horror trail. 

The Boogeyman is PG-13 and in theaters everywhere!

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