Movie Review: “The Boogeyman” Keeps Thing Simple and Scary with a Great Cast and Skillful Execution

When I was a kid, the word “Boogeyman” conjured up a particularly frightening foe from the animated The Real Ghostbusters series. As I grew up, I came to learn that this term had been around for well more than a century, frightening children since the mid-1800s. In 1973, renowned horror author Stephen King penned an acclaimed short story that built upon the legend, and which had only been adapted into a couple short films and one full-length play until this year.

Now 20th Century Studios, under its current owner The Walt Disney Company, has a new feature-length movie adaptation of King’s story– and it performed so well in test screenings that it was shifted from a Hulu-exclusive streaming release to arriving in theaters next Friday. I saw an advance press screening of The Boogeyman this week, and I immediately came to understand why that choice was made.

The Boogeyman, in the new movie directed by Rob Savage (of 2020’s lockdown-horror movie Host) is the story of a therapist named Will Harper (Devil’s Chris Messina), who reluctantly admits a creepy new patient (David Dastmalchian from the Ant-Man movies in a scene-stealing performance) into his home office for an impromptu session. After the meeting decidedly takes a turn for the worse, Harper’s two daughters, played by Vivien Lyra Blair (best known as young Princess Leia from the Disney+ live-action Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi series) and Sophie Thatcher (another Star Wars alumnus, with a recurring role in The Book of Boba Fett) find themselves haunted by a malevolent presence in their house. I don’t want to spoil too much else about the plot of The Boogeyman or where things go from there, but I will say that this movie succeeds by keeping things very simple: there may or may not be a creature living in these two young girl’s closets, and it might have something to do with the bleak history of Dastmalchian’s character, who has been accused of killing his own children– not to mention the recent accidental death of Will’s wife. That’s pretty much all there is to the setup, and when the dominos begin to fall, the action is contained mostly to the twists and turns of one claustrophobic location– the Harper home– kind of like a less comedic version of Poltergeist.

There are a lot of familiar Stephen King tropes in this story, but it reminded me the most of the 2020 HBO miniseries The Outsider, based on King’s 2018 novel of the same name, which also concerns an ages-old creature that preys on families that have recently undergone traumatic events. But despite treading some recognizable ground, The Boogeyman is most notably a good, old-fashioned horror movie with compelling leads, crisp direction, and a very scary-looking monster. This is one of those movies where day turns into night and you start wishing it would cut back to daytime again before our characters have to confront their fears, but of course that never works, or you wouldn’t have a horror movie. There were more than a handful of moments when I found myself thinking, “Oh, that’s pretty clever” when it came to camera movements, shot composition, or in-story devices that gave cinematographer Eli Born some wonderful excuses to keep the visuals interesting and eerie. The bottom line is that The Boogeyman delivers on its promise, and is probably best seen in a theater full of terrified people gripping their armrests in suspense around you, many of whom will return home later to make sure their closet doors are tightly closed.

The Boogeyman will be released into theaters on Friday, June 2nd.

My grade: 4 out of 5 repurposed Christmas lights.

Laughing Place recommends Alamo Drafthouse Cinema for the best film, food, and drink - all in one seat.