[Movie Review] THE BOOGEYMAN

[Movie Review] THE BOOGEYMAN

PG-13 horror movies get a bad rap. Sometimes unnecessarily so. There’s the expectation that with a PG-13 rating, there will be no scares. Anyone that goes into THE BOOGEYMAN with preconceptions of what its PG-13 rating will bring should leave those concerns at the door. Directed by Rob Savage with a screenplay by Scott Beck & Bryan Woods and Mark Heyman, we lay witness to an expansion of the short story from Stephen King. THE BOOGEYMAN will leave you tense from beginning to end. Even when you anticipate the scares, they’ll get you.

In THE BOOGEYMAN, we are introduced to the grieving Harper family. A month has passed since high school student Sadie Harper (Sophie Thatcher) and her younger sister Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair) lost their mom. Their dad, Will (Chris Messina), struggles privately with his grief. Instead, he buries himself in treating his clients.

A desperate patient (David Dastmalchian) finds his way to the Harpers’ doorstep. Begging to be heard by Will, he tries to relay to the skeptical therapist what has been plaguing this family. All the man has done, though, is introduce a terrifying sadistic entity to a whole new family to feast upon. First dismissed as a symptom of their grief, it soon becomes clear to both Sadie and Sawyer that something is very wrong. It soon becomes a race against time and shadows for all to escape from THE BOOGEYMAN.

The art of the set-up

Photo by Patti Perret l 20th Century Studios

With a hauntingly effective opening scene, the anticipation of the scares is established quickly. The sudden opening of doors, the easy deception that lies within the dark, and more are used in smart fashion. As the audience learns along with Sadie and Sawyer, we know that it’s no longer a guessing game. We know the scares are coming, but the execution, especially as THE BOOGEYMAN grows bolder, keeps us on our toes.

Eli Born’s cinematography shines here, particularly in the long lingering shots, but also with how light is played with. The premise lays open a treasure trove of experimentation with lighting – for both the characters and crew – that makes the gradual formulaic of the story feel exciting.

The decision to reveal the creature sooner rather than later has its benefits. A creature of shadow, it gives more room to play with what to show to the audience. The only downside is the execution of visual effects later on in the film, with less room to camouflage the imperfections.

Showing the creature much earlier on also tosses out the frequent guessing game in these scenarios. Is it in the characters’ heads? Beck, Woods, and Heyman collectively say nah. THE BOOGEYMAN is real and it’s hungry for our suffering.

THE BOOGEYMAN manifests as something more

Courtesy 20th Century Studios

Where the film falters are in its embrace of familiar tropes. From internet searches to origin stories and more, there is an easy checklist to mark off. There is also the matter of the film’s subject matter. Grief, much like horror, is a universal thing and has been intimately tied together since the dawn of the genre. For a weary audience, the return to grief as a theme may rankle as it has been a heavy hitter in horror over the years.

However, it’s easily dismissed when you see the earnestness of the performances of Sophie Thatcher and Vivien Lyra Blair. This is a testament to Rob Savage‘s direction as well. Portraying Sadie and Sawyer, we see how both girls process their grief differently, with Sadie taking on a more maternal role in the process. While she makes dumb decisions (typical for a teenager, so cut her some slack), Sadie’s desire to protect her little sister once she realizes what’s coming radiates offscreen.

As a metaphor, THE BOOGEYMAN is simple yet effective. It is a warning of what can arise if we suffer in silence and can’t let go. It festers and spreads into the foundation of everything before it swallows us whole. There was the potential to dive deeper into these ideas but, as it stands, the driving point is difficult to miss.

A stressful ride from start to finish, this PG-13 horror will have you leave your lights on long after the sun sets. THE BOOGEYMAN premieres exclusively in theaters June 2nd.

Sarah Musnicky
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