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The Boogeyman – Film Review

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the boogeyman film review
the boogeyman film review

The Boogeyman probably won’t like the comparison, but it shares a lot with Monsters Inc. It showcases a creature that likes to hide in closets, under the bed and in the dark, feeding off the fear of young children. We half-expected a reveal of Sully and Mike at the halfway point.

We’re being facetious of course, but it shows how familiar and universal the themes are if they’ve already been used in a Disney Pixar movie. Almost too familiar, in fact.

The Boogeyman starts off in a gloomy place and resolutely stays there. Sadie Harper (Sophie Thatcher, on the up from Yellowjackets and The Book of Boba Fett) is returning to school for the first time after her mum passed away. She’s clearly still processing it, and gets triggered by the unthinking students who don’t know how to treat her. Sadie didn’t have many friends before the event, and she has even fewer now.

Meanwhile, her dad, Will Harper (Chris Messina, The Mindy Project) is a psychotherapist who is failing to practice what he preaches, repressing his wife’s death. Into his home office walks Lester Billings (David Dastmalchian, The Suicide Squad and Ant-Man) whose children have been killed, one by one, by a dark, malevolent force. You can probably guess who. While Will runs off to call the police, Lester does something that makes the Harpers’ home the next target. Primary among those targets is Sadie’s sister, Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair, the young Princess Leia in Obi-Wan Kenobi).

What follows is reasonably by-the-numbers. Things go bump in the night, and the two children slowly piece together what is bumping. But, being children, not many people believe them, least of all their dad, so they have to muddle through on their own. The sightings of The Boogeyman intensify until everyone is threatened.

The Boogeyman’s primary issue is that none of this is especially new. Many of us, at some point, have grown up with a fear of the dark, and a wariness of what lingers at the fringes of our bedrooms. These are primal fears that are understandable. But horror movies have been mining this seam for decades, all the way back to Nosferatu. We are at the point where we need something else: a social commentary like Barbarian, or an exploration of mental health like The Babadook. Playing this kind of card straight, without deviation, is setting yourself up for failure.

That The Boogeyman doesn’t fail, and doesn’t end up crippled by its lack of ambition is down to a few things. The first is Sophie Thatcher’s performance. Her Sadie could have been unempathetic: an emo teenager who lacks the self-awareness to make friends who might help her, or – you know – get authorities involved. But she throws herself into the character of Sadie so flawlessly, exposed to all the raw emotions of a teenager in this terrible situation. She’s clearly got a bright future ahead of her.

Then there’s the direction, which doesn’t coast on the simplicity of the premise. Director Rob Savage (Dashcam, Host) who’s more used to high-concept horror, manages to find the moments of invention. Sawyer carries a light-globe with her in the night, and she rolls it down corridors to see what’s there, creating the cleverest of jump scares. In fact, almost all of The Boogeyman’s best ideas come from light sources: a therapist’s strobe light and a string of Christmas lights are all used well. 

Finally, there’s the creature design, which we can’t reveal too much about for obvious reasons. What starts off as generic and yawnsome becomes a beastie that we’d love to know more about. Like the xenomorph in the Alien movies, it makes you want to know more about how it functions. That’s a rare trick that very few creature-features pull off. 

So there’s a seesaw at play here. Occasionally The Boogeyman dips into areas that we’ve seen all too often before. We tutted when yet another adult wouldn’t listen to the kids, or a jump-scare jolted us awake. The threat here is too archetypical, too done, to make The Boogeyman feel like an important horror movie, when horror movies have been debatably one of the most important and innovative genres of the past few years.

But the seesaw often jumps the other way, as the beast is illuminated by yet another impressive light-based set piece, or Sophie Thatcher yanks the heart strings. Curiously, it’s when The Boogeyman moves into the light that it’s at its best. When it lurks in the dark, it can veer too close to generic.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Brilliant central Sophie Thatcher performance
  • Some lovely visual flourishes and scares
  • Creature design is great
Cons:
  • Feels too familiar
  • Loves a jump-scare
  • Deals in tropes slightly too often
Info:
  • Purchased by TXH
  • Running time and release date - 1hr 38mins | 2023
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Brilliant central Sophie Thatcher performance</li> <li>Some lovely visual flourishes and scares</li> <li>Creature design is great</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Feels too familiar</li> <li>Loves a jump-scare</li> <li>Deals in tropes slightly too often</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Purchased by TXH</li> <li>Running time and release date - 1hr 38mins | 2023 </ul>The Boogeyman - Film Review
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