Directed by: Rob Savage
Premise: Based on a story by Stephen King. A widowed father (Chris Messina) and his two daughters (Sophie Thatcher and Vivien Lyra Blair) are haunted by a malevolent supernatural presence. The children try to convince their father the threat is real.
What Works: Horror films, especially those taking place in the dark, require a delicate use of light. Moviemakers must establish a mood and surround the characters with dark spaces while illuminating the action well enough to be seen. This sometimes results in a muddled image especially in films shot digitally. 2023’s The Boogeyman is very well lit, creating an atmosphere of dread and using the darkness in a way that is threatening while adequately illuminating the action. This film also uses sound especially well. Experienced in a theater with a proper surround speaker setup, the soundtrack of The Boogeyman has an effective mix that disconcertingly throws effects and voices and creates a threatening vibe. The craftsmanship is enough to make The Boogeyman engaging and it maintains a creepy atmosphere and manages a few jump scares.
What Doesn’t: Over the past few years the horror genre has capitalized on the psychological concept of trauma. To some degree that idea is ever present in horror; the genre is always about trauma to one degree or another but recent horror films, such as Smile, Midsommar, and David Gordon Green’s Halloween trilogy, have reflected the way the vocabulary of psychology and concerns about mental health have entered the mainstream. 2023’s The Boogeyman is very much a work of trauma horror but in ways that are obvious and shallow. These people are bereaved following the death of the mother of the family and the dramatization of grief is obvious and cliché. Monsters in horror typically manifest the unconscious but the creature of The Boogeyman is disconnected from the rest of the film. It’s just a stock monster terrorizing children and the struggle with this creature does not come across as a metaphor for anything. A lot of elements of The Boogeyman don’t make sense. The father is a therapist who sees clients in his home office. A walk-in patient kills himself in the family home and this barely gets remarked upon. The father applies none of his professional skills to his own family, leaving his daughters to work out their feelings on their own. The younger daughter is established as afraid of the dark and aware that the supernatural creature lurks in the shadows and yet she plays videogames in a dark room illuminated by nothing but the television.
Bottom Line: The Boogeyman is as generic as its title. It’s just scary enough to be passable but this is a pedestrian ghost story that brings little that is new or novel to the genre.
Episode: #952 (June 11, 2023)