“The Boogeyman” Movie Review
Everyone knows Stephen King as the Master of Horror, but his track record in film has not exactly been masterful. Three of the best-regarded adaptations of King’s writings have been in genres other than horror: the coming-of-age tale Stand By Me and the prison dramas The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. While some of the author’s more macabre works have also made for compelling movies, including Carrie, Misery, Christine, It, and, of course, Stanley Kubrick’s King-besmirched The Shining, there are so many more that have fallen flat in translation, meeting critical disdain, public apathy, and often both.
To that class, we can add The Boogeyman, a limp curiosity that no one will be talking about within a couple of weeks. Adapted from King’s 1973 short story of the same name, this slow, dark, supernatural thriller focuses on therapist Will Harper (Chris Messina) and his two daughters, all of whom are still processing the recent death of the family’s matriarch.
Will gets a surprise visit from an unsettling man named Lester Billings (David Dastmalchian), whose three kids have all died one by one under suspicious circumstances.
Directed by low-budget British genre filmmaker Rob Savage (Host, Dashcam) and adapted by A Quiet Place writers Scott Beck and Bryan Woods and Black Swan, Skeleton Twins contributor Mark Heyman, The Boogeyman never commits to one angle. What initially appears to be a story about grief gets mixed up in Billings’ claims of an entity and the trials of Sadie (Sophie Thatcher, “Yellowjackets”), who struggles socially with her peers.
As you can imagine, being pulled in these very different directions does the movie no favors, leaving it to disappoint on each front as we plod along to what only feels like an epic runtime of 99 minutes. There are some jump scares and there is a crackpot widow (Marin Ireland) lending credence to the Boogeyman concept. But the drab, shadowy visuals and meandering narrative combine to simply bore you.
It is a wonder that in an age in which Hollywood seems to have sworn off the mid-budget movie that Disney’s 20th Century Studios have spent a reported $35 million on this. Where did that money go?! It couldn’t have been the cast or the minimalist production design. With the exception of producer Shawn Levy, with his string of mostly mediocre but sometimes profitable middlebrow efforts, none of the filmmakers have proven track records to command high salaries or major studio confidence. And with a few big exceptions (like the two It movies), King has not been a name to fill multiplex seats in a while.
All of which leads us to easily question the decision-making here instead of celebrating the existence of a non-franchise standalone movie. With its distant third place opening weekend, putting up numbers much closer to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3‘s fifth window than The Little Mermaid‘s second, The Boogeyman will inevitably be used as evidence that it does not pay to make mid-sized movies. You could blame the timing, with this coming at the peak of summer, a season when proven brands traditionally shine. But though it may benefitted from lesser competition, such a middling film was never going to thrive. And that disappointment can be chalked up to a presentation that fails to compel or stir.