Review by Cole Groth
The Boogeyman is simply remarkable. Not since A Quiet Place has a PG-13 horror movie managed to be as terrifying, emotional, and powerful as Rob Savage’s first big-budget directorial effort. Like Savage’s previous efforts — Host and DASHCAM -- The Boogeyman makes efficient work of a short runtime to make a horror film that’s relentlessly terrifying and satisfyingly quick. With a terrific leading performance from Sophie Thatcher, some fantastic drama, and an all-time monster, this is a movie that demands to be seen in a crowded theater on a big screen.
Based on a short story from none other than Steven King and a script from Scott Beck, Bryan Woods (the two writers of A Quiet Place), and Mark Heyman, The Boogeyman tells the story of the Harper family. High school student Sadie (Sophie Thatcher) and her younger sister Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair) are reeling from the tragic passing of their mother. Their therapist father, Will (Chris Messina), isn’t doing much better, and everything gets a whole lot worse after a man brings a malevolent force into the lives of the Harpers, a demon that feeds on their suffering and is hunting them down.
Before anything about the story is analyzed, praise must be given to this cast. Sophia Thatcher is phenomenal and will no doubt have a successful career once this reaches a broader audience. Vivien Lyra Blair is an incredibly talented child actress, bringing the energy of a little kid with the emotional maturity of a seasoned actor. Chris Messina has already established himself as an excellent actor, but his performance here is one of the best of his career.
If you’re looking for scares, The Boogeyman delivers on all accounts. It’s full of intense set pieces that will have you on the edge of your seat and never lets up after its first scare. Almost every scene ends with some sort of terrifying moment, and while jumpscares are typically annoying, Savage’s direction makes them feel earned. The actual Boogeyman itself is a stellar monster, with its design standing out as one of the best in horror history. Instead of showing the whole monster, we only see it lurking in the shadows, forcing our minds to imagine a threat that's probably much more terrifying than what would've happened if we saw all of it.
Plenty of horror movies explore grief, but this film does it exceptionally well. Every character acts like a normal person, and it’s refreshing to watch a paranormal horror film where every character isn’t an obnoxious skeptic. The family dynamic here will surely resonate with audiences because it adds so much depth to the story. Will is a particularly likable character because of how ready he is to help his daughters out. He’s also going through a painful period in his life, and it’s nice that we see how he struggles with his wife’s death while ensuring his daughters are doing well. It’s a touching story from start to finish that makes each scare even more effective.
Eli Born’s cinematography is perfect. Every shot is thoughtfully composed and creatively designed to make you feel squeamish. Patrick Jonsson’s fantastic score supports the beautiful cinematography, seamlessly blending the emotional highs and lows of the Harpers' family drama with the tense scares. From a production standpoint, this is one of the most competent horror films, and it seems like it was made on a budget of much more than the $42 million that was used.
Initially scheduled for release on Hulu, this was pushed to a theatrical release after positive test screenings. While the screening I attended didn’t have a large audience, which surely would’ve made it even better, seeing it on an enormous screen in a pitch-black theater made the experience all the better. Hopefully, Disney will learn the right lesson from this and send even more films to theaters because seeing this on a small screen wouldn’t have been nearly as impactful. There’s a sense of theatricality that makes this film much better than its parts.
If you’re a die-hard horror fan, you will love The Boogeyman. If you don’t love scary movies, you might enjoy The Boogeyman even more. It’s a perfect blend of horror and drama that’s as satisfying to watch as terrifying. Good horror movies have a visceral energy that makes you incredibly uncomfortable, and the disquiet this film makes you feel is thanks to a phenomenal story that will resonate with audiences of all kinds. See this with as many people as possible because horror movies this great are so infrequent, and this will hopefully be the start of a horror renaissance.
The Boogeyman releases in theaters on June 2.