The Boogeyman: The Brokenness that goes Bump in the Night

Do you believe in The Boogeyman?

Let’s face it. Most of us did as children. Whether it was the shadows under our bed or open closet doors, there’s something about the corners of the night that terrifies children. Now, with the release of The Boogeyman, 20th Century Studios hopes to do the same for adults.

The Boogeyman follows Sadie Harper (Sophie Thatcher) and her younger sister, Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair), two siblings who recently lost their mother in a tragic accident. Just as their father, Will (Chris Messina) returns to his counselling practice, the time has also come for his girls return to school. However, when a desperate patient (David Dastmalchian) arrives insisting that he needs help, he inadvertently brings a demonic presence into the Harper residence. Suddenly, Sawyer’s terror of things that go bump in the night begin to affect the entire home, leaving Sadie to find out what haunts them—and how to stop it.

Vivien Lyra Blair as Sawyer in 20th Century Studios’ THE BOOGEYMAN. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Directed by Rob Savage, The Boogeyman is a fun and frightening trip under the bed that leans into the nightmares that we all carry with us. By bleeding the screen with darkness, Savage makes sure that every nook and cranny feels threatening. (In fact, even his use of colour blurs the line between light and dark.) By getting its terror from the noises within the shadows, Boogeyman understands all the tropes that make horror films work and uses them effectively. While it may sound like criticism to suggest that the film is using techniques that we’ve seen before, there’s absolutely no shame in using classic scares if they’re done well. This is a film that understands how to get the reactions that it wants from its audience and uses the darkness to its advantage.

While all the performances are strong, it’s ultimately young Thatcher that carries the film. As the skeptical Sadie, Thatcher is clearly having a blast as she unravels her sister’s scary tales and she processes her own grief. Much of the film is told through her eyes and she brings the audience on her journey towards belief, fighting her fear with fury. (What’s more, credit must also be given to Dastmalchian who levels up the creepiness in a very limited amount of screen time.)

David Dastmalchian as Lester in 20th Century Studios’ THE BOOGEYMAN. Photo by Patti Perret. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

What keeps the film from rising to the next level though is its use of metaphor. Don’t get me wrong. The Boogeyman is a fun ride that plays on our childhood fears and appears to have a lot to say. Taking cues from the best of elevated horror, the film seems to want to have a conversation about larger issues, especially mental health. However, despite the fact that it clearly wants to delve into the issues of grief and trauma, its metaphors come across as slightly inconsistent. On the whole, this isn’t an issue—as I said, the film works well—but it does prevent the film from reaching the lofty heights of recent films like Get Out or The Invisible Man.

Having said this though, this Boogeyman dives fairly deeply into the nature of fear. As the monster grows in power, it becomes clear that this beast acts as a prowling lion, looking for someone to devour. Without giving any spoilers, this aspect of the story feeds off the brokenness of Savage’s characters, helping create conversation about what it means to truly deal with trauma. Do our monsters need to be dealt with? Or will they go away with time? These sorts of questions ground the film and help (at least, begin to) create conversations around mental health and healing.

(L-R): Sophie Thatcher as Sadie Harper and Vivien Lyra Blair as Sawyer Harper in 20th Century Studios’ THE BOOGEYMAN. Photo by Patti Perret. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

In the end, The Boogeyman earns its scares. By playing on our basest fears of the unknown, this tight little horror is simple and effective in its execution. Plus, by digging into our deepest fears, it may even cause you to double check your doors when you get home.

The Boogeyman is available in theatres on Friday, June 2nd, 2023.

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