The Boogeyman Gives Frights and Grief Lurking In the Dark

The Boogeyman still of Sadie holding a lighter (Sophie Thatcher), while father Will (Chris Messina) and Sawyer (Vivian Lyra Blair) huddle in the dark.

The climax is explosive, but The Boogeyman shines best with the buildup as the monster lurks in the shadows.

Rob Savage demonstrated he understood horror with The Host and disappointed audiences with the offensive Dashcam. In The Boogeyman, Savage adapts a Stephen King story for frights, and though heavy on jump scares, there are real stakes and suspense. It’s also different from those horror films where the best moments are all in the trailer, making viewing pointless. The Boogeyman is the horror of monsters, grief ignored, and loved ones neglected. With a cast you’re terrified for, you wonder if it will end in survival or a Dark Skies ending.

Boogeyman Establishes Stakes at the Outset

At the film’s start, Savage makes it clear that children are not safe in. Establishing the stakes at the outset cranks suspense up, and it never entirely comes down. You hear throaty sounds with hoarseness building dread. A young child cries in a crib. Those cries may haunt viewers. In hindsight, it’s surprising how scary it is without graphic deaths and gore.

Family You Want to Survive and Heal in The Boogeyman

I’ve been a fan of Chris Messina since M. Night Shyamalan’s Devil. Although some hated the film, I loved it, and that was in large part due to Messina’s performance. So seeing him in Air as a foul-mouthed agent and now in The Boogeyman as Will makes me happy. Though again, I wish the film utilized him more. Now while his performance is terrific, the film only works with the two daughters the entire movie hinges on.

The Boogeyman still of Sadie (Sophie Thatcher).
The Boogeyman still of Sadie (Sophie Thatcher). 20th Century Studios.

Sophie Thatcher, as Sadie, doesn’t fall into the usual rebellious teen. She looks out for her sister, Sawyer (Vivian Lyra Blair), and tries to talk to her father about their collective loss, a father who’s determined to avoid the topic. She brings wisdom but still has teenage moments of wanting to fit in with her friends. Vivian Lyra Blair plays Sawyer as bright and resourceful, too, but not in such a manner that it feels inauthentic to someone her age. If you had to face a monster with a child in tow, she’s who you’d want.

Monster That Feeds on Fear, Separation, and Loss

Grief festers when it’s not faced. In The Boogeyman, it’s also the excuse for why the kids see a monster. Sadie is not necessarily wiser than her father, but for her, healing and facing grief means talking about it. Unfortunately, her dad prefers to avoid it because of his pain and guilt. The creature represents how consuming bereavement is when you avoid it. Not entirely psychological, as the opening hints there’s a monster on the loose, but the film is more on par with The Babadook. When Lester (David Dastmalchian) tells Will the boogeyman comes for the kids when the parents do not pay attention, he’s speaking about the neglect caused by grief.

The Boogeyman highlights how pain leaves the family fractured. Monsters, both human and other, exploit those cracks and can wreak irrevocable harm. The climax is explosive, but The Boogeyman shines best with the buildup as the monster lurks in the shadows. I was not scared watching this because I was in a theater with plenty of people to fight alongside or use as cannon fodder for my escape. The Boogeyman is nightmare fuel using shadows and monsters to show how oppressive and inescapable grief feels but loses steam in the climax by showing the monster. Still, it’s one of the better horror films in recent memory.

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