THE BOOGEYMAN (2023) horror movie review

By Kurt Feigelis

Neither fun nor scary enough. This adaptation of Stephen King’s The Boogeyman takes a short story and builds just enough tension that struggles to justify a 90 minute run time. Beautiful cinematography and wonderful performances, particularly by Vivien Lyra Blair and Sophie Thatcer. But in the end, the film leaves you wanting and waiting for just once more scare. 

After the death of his wife, psychiatrist Will Harper (Chris Messina) struggles with his loss and the responsibility of being a single father. Daughters Sadie Harper (Sophie Thatcher) and Sawyer Harper (Vivien Lyra Harper) are left to care and raise each other while their father continues to work and see patients. The same day the daughters return to school after the death of their mother Lester Billings appears on Dr. Harpers’s door step seeking help. He tells the story of the death of his three children and how he believes “something” is responsible, he calls it “the Boogeyman.” Believing this man is unstable, Dr. Harper removes himself to call the police. We soon find Lester wondering the house where the Boogeyman has found him and now attaches himself to a new family. Now it is up to the daughters to fight for survival and try to convince everyone else that the Boogeyman is real. 

Over all, this movie is successful. With writers Scott Beck, Bryan Woods, and Mark Heyman, these guys know scary and can write a scare scene. They know how to build a story with interesting characters. But the inconsistencies come from Director Rob Savage. The movie is a more about waiting for the Boogeyman to appear, or wait for the characters to start talking about the monster they don’t know anything about yet. The parts in between don’t progress the story enough. 

The mythology of the Boogeyman comes in to question when you start to think about the movie as a whole. It is said the Boogeyman attacks when the parents aren’t paying attention to their children, but this mythology doesn’t stick true to the story. The father is closer to the younger daughter (Sawyer), who sleeps with multiple lights on, and is constantly overlooking the eldest daughter (Sadie) and even walks away from her when she says “I’m trying to talk to you.” But the Boogeyman goes after Sawyer first, despite not being able to be in the light, and her sleeping with multiple lights on. But the Boogeyman also attacks adults when they are alone as well. 

Granted the mystery of the Boogeyman is what would make him scary, and I don’t need all of the answers, but consistency is the story is what makes you feel satisfied. If the Boogeyman has been around for hundreds or thousands of years, why is the first time we heard of him. Where are the stories around the school yard, late at night during sleepovers? Where are the questionable videos online with today’s technology that all children have.  

Further inconstancies with the father come into question, early on we seem him taking pills leading us to believe he is struggling with the loss of his wife, but this never comes back. He isn’t there for his children, then he is, then he isn’t. He is there for one, not the other, then vise versa, then not there for either. Either he is trying to be a good single father or he isn’t. It feels as if there needed to be one more pass on the screen play, or too much was cut in editing to keep the film at 98 minutes.

In the end the movie is about the Boogeyman, and that is where this movie shines. There is true mystery behind this (possibly ancient) monster. The build up to his reveal is a fun and enjoyable ride, and the movie is worth seeing for that alone. But I sat there at the end thinking about the movie waiting for one more scene, one more scare, or a hint of character development or progress for the family we just sat with for 98 mins. 3.5 stars/ 5. Wait 45 for streaming.

This review is from contributor Kurt Feigelis.