REVIEW: ‘The Boogeyman’ Reminds Us Why We Used To Be Afraid of the Dark

The Boogeyman, at its core, gets at the most basic of premises: What if the monster in the shadows that we feared as a child was real? Our protagonist Harper Family — a recently widowed father and his two daughters — represent the stages of life where that fear goes from real to remote, and as the story progresses, we experience the foreboding and the terror of a monster lurking in the place you forgot to look.

The film is carried by its cast, as Sophie Thatcher of Yellowjackets fame brings a certain outcast quality along with her savvy. As the teenage daughter Sadie Harper, she’s too old for monsters, but she is nonetheless no stranger to trauma, as she is still steeped in sadness about her mother’s death. She’s the big sister that is expected to be the strong one, but grief casts a pall over her ability to see what she needs to see to protect her sister Sawyer from the very real danger that stalks them.

(L-R): Sophie Thatcher as Sadie Harper, Chris Messina as Will 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 her portrayal of Sawyer, Vivien Lyra Blair (Young Leia from Obi-Wan Kenobi) gives us a child who is desperate not to be the monster’s next victim but is also terrified (and rightfully so). As these types of movies are wont to do, we get a lot of scenes where we’re alone with her in rooms where the monster can be anywhere, and as viewers, her paranoia becomes ours, and her frustration at no one believing her invests us in her fate.

Chris Messina, on the other hand, is in the toughest spot as Will. He’s the dad, a therapist whose patient tells him about a monster, and whose children tell him about a monster as well, but his natural response is to conclude that the answer is more therapy, because monsters couldn’t possibly be real. His own grief, as he grapples with the loss of his wife is conveyed well by Messina, so even though his decisions aren’t particularly helpful in the face of the dangers his daughters face, he never crosses the line into unsympathetic.

Sophie Thatcher as Sadie in 20th Century Studios’ THE BOOGEYMAN. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

This is a really good script, economical and well-paced, and director Rob Savage gives us the suspense shots and jump scares at the appropriate times. Characters get the right amount of screen time and don’t outstay their welcome. I won’t spoil the final body count here, but unsurprisingly, not everyone we meet makes it. And the creature design is solid. The screams are earned. I would say that if you’re a fan of gore, it might not scratch that particular itch, as it’s less about blood and guts and more about the psychological horror of a monster that doesn’t just want to gut you, but wants you to anticipate it.

Overall, The Boogeyman is a good thriller of a horror movie. It doesn’t necessarily tread new ground or push the genre forward, but with its capable leads, a solid emotional core, and terrifying sequences that will have you reconsidering every creepy crevice in your own home, it delivers the goods.

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