The Boogeyman is back – or did he ever leave? And the death of Sadie and Sawyer Harper’s mother has left a dark void that only seems to be getting darker.
Based on the short story by Stephen King, from his very early (and eerie), ‘Nightshift’ collection and from the extremely capable producer of Stranger Things, Shawn Levy, we are quickly thrown into the world of darkness, dread and very real fear that lurks in the darkest corners of your open closets and your imaginative mind.
When a grieving and uninvited patient Lester Billings (David Dastmalchian), is apparently witness to the quick succession of his daughter’s cot deaths, he feels he must unload his mental pain in the home of his therapist Will (Chris Messina). Thus, in turn unleashing the terrible monster that comes looking for Will’s children while they sleep. When Lester Billings is found dead by suicide the cupboard, the horror opens up in the children’s minds and so their pain begins once more.
Daughters Sadie Harper, played by Sophie Thatcher (Book of Boba Fett), and Sawyer Harper played by Vivien Lyra Blair (Obi Wan Kenobi), are still feeling the mental pain after losing their mother in a car accident the previous year. Now their world has become as dark as the light sucking rooms they inhabit. As taunted University student Sadie herself continues to deny the nightmare beasts that begin haunting her little sister, Sawyer must face them alone until those around understand the reality of the dark world that has brutally entered their home. Chris Messina’s has a minor role despite being far more front and centre in the book, which delves more into his daughter’s pain… creating a far deeper experience within the movie.
With the film set in the current day, from a book written exactly half a century ago, it has been updated and elongated into movie form to include the members outside of the therapist’s room in which it was predominantly set. This in turn gives us the opportunity to delve deeper into the lives of the Harper children and witness how devastating losing a parent in such traumatic circumstances can be.
Of course, with ‘The Boogeyman’, the experience is concentrated into just over 90 minutes. Originally intended for streaming, the initial test viewing was a fraction shorter by 45 seconds but far scarier than director Rob Savage (film ‘Host’) originally planned or even hoped for. But with terror comes the need for relief and audiences missed the next critical line after seeing the beast in full, so minimal story padding was placed to ensure none of the plot was missed. This has maybe dulled down the hair-raising experiences to a degree; although still creatively directed to a level meant to leave you needing to check your wardrobe once home. There are several terrifying moments in the film, but the primary example was after the father checked the closet for Sawyer, soon followed by the first footsteps of the dark beast running under young Sawyer’s bed.
The greater universal popularity has meant also going from the small screen to the larger within the week. It is a testament to the film being far better than expected with great reactions, although the production could have taken the extra step and propelled us further into the depths we crave with this genre. The so often-used half lit scenes that cry out for the lights to be switched on; and the out of focus elements of some characters play well to deepen the tension and horror.
The chills are most definitely there, the first full sighting of the manifestation sucking the life from Sadie in the third act was as gruesome as intended. The frustration was it would have been even more powerful if left more to the imagination. The performances from the main cast can’t be faulted, but the direction would have benefited from faster cuts to increase the tension, leading to a far grittier and more sinister film. Though the true test of enjoyment for any film is the desire for multiple viewings, which is what I most certainly did.
Author: Piers, Maidstone Store