There’s good news and bad news about ‘The Boogeyman’, the scary new movie based on a short story by Stephen King about — well, the title says it all. First the good news: You will sit on the edge of your seat for much of this movie, and jump out of your skin periodically, especially if you can still remember being afraid to go to sleep because of the monster that lived in the closet, the thing under the bed, the shadow cast on the wall by the Yeti-like hominid lurking just outside your bedroom window, plucking leaves off a tree and eating them.
No? That last one is just me?
Whatever creature your childhood fear of the dark may have harboured, it comes to ghoulish life in the kind of creepy, half-glimpsed verisimilitude that fevers the imagination here — at least for most of the movie, which is largely set in the under-lit hallways and corners common to this genre of film: a world of dim, flickering or malfunctioning electrical fixtures.
Which beings me to the bad news. ‘The Boogeyman’, based on a story from the horror maestro’s 1978 anthology ‘Night Shift’, is also haunted by some pretty tired tropes, starting with this one: When Will Harper (Chris Messina), a therapist still mourning the accidental death of his wife, invites a deeply disturbed, possibly suicidal man named Lester (David Dastmalchian) into his home office for a new consultation, the prospective patient ends up leaving something behind in the house while Will has stepped away to call the cops. It’s precipitated by more than just Lester’s act of violence — bad real estate juju by any measure — but also accompanied by something far more solid: a supernatural entity that preys on the grieving and hides in the dark.
Needless to say, this early turn of events freaks out not just Will, but his two daughters: teenager Sadie (Sophie Thatcher) and her little sister Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair). And what do they do? Check into a hotel until they can put the house on the market?
No. They waltz right back home, turn the dimmer switches down to low, and settle in for another hour and a half of paroxysms of horrified delight. This is an especially bad idea given that Sawyer is already prone to night terrors.
Okay, so none of this is really “news” at all. Very few movies of this ilk have the honesty to confront the illogic of their characters’ decisions, barring such worn-out meta-horror as the ‘Scream’ franchise. What is director Rob Savage to do, working from a screenplay by Scott Beck, Bryan Woods and Mark Heyman? Logic would dictate that the film turn into the world’s shortest feature film ever, one that ends abruptly after 10 minutes with an on-screen title reading, “And that’s why we moved to Florida. The End.”
So I’ll cut this film some slack, even though the plot entails one bad decision after another, culminating in Sadie visiting the home of Lester’s wife, Rita (Marin Ireland) — a house of horrors that no sane person would enter.
All that said, ‘The Boogeyman’ is still rather effective at what it sets out to do, probably due in large part to the contributions of Beck and Woods, the writing/producing duo behind the 2018 hit ‘A Quiet Place’. On one level, it can be read as a metaphor for grief, kind of like ‘The Babadook’, which covered the same ground, albeit to greater effect.
But by choosing literalness over ambiguity, ‘The Boogeyman’ doesn’t quite stick the landing like that richly allusive 2014 Australian film did. This boogeyman bleeds, Rita notes, and therefore it can be hurt. And therein lies ‘The Boogeyman’s’ problem: It’s a movie about killing the thing that plagues you, instead of learning how to live with it.
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‘The Boogeyman’ will run in UAE cinemas from June 1.