[Article] The Creation of THE BOOGEYMAN

[Article] The Creation of THE BOOGEYMAN

We all have an idea of The Boogeyman. Universal across all cultures, this creature has always existed as a threat to get children to behave. If you’re bad, The Boogeyman will come get you. But while the idea of this scary being exists everywhere, there’s no easy definitive idea of what it looks like. Is it the threat that frightens us or what we end up conjuring up in the dark?

The creation of this creature in 20th Century Studios’ THE BOOGEYMAN was a topic of discussion at the recent conference for the film. Moderated by Perri Nemiroff of Collider, the conference was attended by Chris Messina (“Will Harper”), Sophie Thatcher (“Sadie Harper”), Vivien Lyra Blair (“Sawyer Harper”), David Dastmalchian (“Lester Billings”), director Rob Savage, and producers Dan Levine and Dan Cohen.

Part of the success of THE BOOGEYMAN is how much is left to the audience’s imagination. Making use of the shadows in the film, director Rob Savage’s primary motivation was to ensure the creature was scary. “We didn’t want people to leave the cinema thinking, like, ‘I’ve seen The Boogeyman. He’s not all that scary,’” he explained. But due to the nature of how the film progresses, he knew that they had to show the creature that “felt like it made room for everyone’s personal interpretation of the creature.”

Usage of shadows

Photo by Patti Perret. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Part of what makes this creature of legend so scary is the universal fear of the dark. Our minds conjure all sorts of mysteries within the pitch-black shadows. This makes it easier to exploit in the realm of horror, and the creative team behind THE BOOGEYMAN leaned heavily into that.

When asked about the process of designing the creature, Savage explained how they tapped into not just using the shadows, but also the psyche of the human mind:

“The design was about creating something that you could glimpse just in the shadows. You could just see these pinprick eyes staring out from the darkness. For most of the movie, we’re just allowing it to fester in the audience’s head.” This method easily heightens fear, but also gives more wiggle room to delay the inevitable – the reveal of THE BOOGEYMAN.

“When you finally see the creature, we came up with this weird, messed-up design; whereby the creature reveals itself to have dimensions beyond what we see,” he elaborated further. “There’s still room for people’s own nightmares projected onto our creature. And yet, we’ve got this horrific design which our team came up with, which, will hopefully create some new nightmares.”

Practical vs Digital in THE BOOGEYMAN

Photo by Patti Perret. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

While there was a push by Savage to try to do practical for the bulk of THE BOOGEYMAN, when it came to the design of the creature, digital won out. That’s not to say that the team didn’t try for practical. Too many elements got in the way of being able to tackle a practical monster effectively.

After going around to various places, a couple of things became apparent to the director: “We wouldn’t have enough time to build a suit. And two, the things that we had to have this creature doing, practical would be very cumbersome. It would add to our days. We shot 34 days, so we didn’t have enough time to mess around with a practical suit.”

That didn’t mean that the actors had nothing to work off. “We had a Boogeyman head that we had 3D printed and slathered in KY jelly and lit by Eli Born, our incredible cinematographer,” shared Savage. “We had that in every single scene, [so] that we could show the VFX people and say, ‘That’s what a real Boogeyman head looks like.’ It’s gotta look like that.”

The head was enough to freak out young actor, Vivien Lyn Blair, who plays Sawyer in the film. And, with all hope, all the hard work into the design will be enough to scare audiences when they see THE BOOGEYMAN in theaters starting June 2nd.

To learn more, check out our review here.

Sarah Musnicky
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