Sophie Thatcher stars in "The Boogeyman." Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios
LOS ANGELES, May 25 (UPI) -- The Boogeyman, in theaters June 2, employs tried-and-true horror tropes to great effect. From the way it constructs scare scenes to its subtle themes and the monster itself, The Boogeyman shows an understanding of what makes horror scary and emotionally resonant.
Therapist Will Harper (Chris Messina) has recently lost his wife and the mother of his two daughters, Sadie (Sophie Thatcher) and Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair), in an automobile accident.
When distraught patient Lester Billings (David Dastmalchian) shows up without an appointment, Billings brings more than just emotional baggage into the Harper house.
Having an erratic patient in the house is scary enough, but even after he's gone, Sadie and Sawyer continue to encounter something in the dark. The Boogeyman, whom Billings believed killed his children, now is after the Harpers.
Their closets are an easy place for The Boogeyman to hide, but the script, by Mark Heyman with A Quiet Place writers Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, gets more and more creative with where and how the lights can go out.
Likewise, they give Sadie and Sawyer creative light sources to ward off The Boogeyman, but only temporarily.
Director Rob Savage clearly believes in the rule "don't show the monster too much." He is correct and effectively reduces The Boogeyman to brief glimpses.
The creature design stands out from the usual movie monster, but Savage uses that strategically rather than showing it full frontal. Even in the climax, the clearest looks at The Boogeyman remain shrouded in shadow and obscured by the camera angle.
Dark scenes use just enough light to reveal how much Sadie or Sawyer still can't see. Lights Out did a little bit more with the concept of a monster in the dark, but The Boogeyman does it well, too, and adds a grief metaphor to the scares.
It's no coincidence that The Boogeyman's arrival coincides with the loss of Sadie's mother. Early in the film, Sadie clings to remnants of her mother, including their last text messages and the last note her mom wrote on her brown-bag lunch.
Once she's dealing with a bona fide monster, Sadie wishes for her mom's spirit to help her. That's poignant for any grieving person wishing for a sign from beyond, but especially relevant when the malevolent spirit is confirmed.
For a therapist, Will practices an unhealthy amount of denial. Ultimately, The Boogeyman is about kids facing the monster their parents can't or won't confront.
That, too, is a metaphor for that moment in life when young adults realize mommy or daddy can't protect them from the real world. There is also a storied horror tradition of kids facing horrors alone when their parents don't believe them.
That goes back to Freddy Krueger and Chucky, Stephen King's It and many others. It remains relevant in The Boogeyman, also based on a King story.
Thatcher and Blair especially master their emotional roles as grieving daughters and the mechanics of horror scenes. They're required to sell the audience on what might be there in the dark, and they do so convincingly.
The Boogeyman sometimes relies too much on loud noises and fake-out scares, but once Sadie understands what she's up against, the rest of the movie remains on theme. The film doesn't necessarily break any new ground, but it is an effective entry in the genre of kids facing monsters.
Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012 and the Critics Choice Association since 2023. Read more of his work in Entertainment.