By its very nature, The Boogeyman is a generic stand-in for the monster under the bed. Thus, a film titled The Boogeyman is about as generic a horror film as we will see this year. Despite a promising monster design, the film is full of clichés and lacks any lore to provide anything aside from a bunch of jump scares. Rob Savage's direction does have slickness to it. A few moments feature some striking imagery. However, as Stephen King adaptations go, this one will be quickly forgotten.
From what I have read, the script by Mark Heyman, Scott Beck and Bryan Woods has only the slightest connection to the original story. The major shift is the focus on shrink Will Harper (Chris Messina) and his two daughters Sadie (Sophie Thatcher) and Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair). The original was structured around a man telling a shrink about his children's death by supernatural forces.
Will and his daughters are recovering from the death of their mother. Grief surrounds them and Will has largely cut himself off emotionally. This has a big effect on Sadie. Things go from bad to worse when a stranger named Lester (David Dastmalchian) arrives at their front door. He begs to talk to Will believing he may be the only person who could help him. Lester tells Will that he is suspected of killing his three children but the real evil is a creature that lives in the darkness, particularly fond of closets. He shows Will a portrait of the creature drawn by his kids.
Things get twisted when Lester sneaks around Will's house and into his wife's art studio. Sadie, coming home from school after being bullied, hears loud noises coming from the studio. She investigates and finds Lester hanging from the back of the door, hung dead. She claims she heard noises and some sort of growling from the closet. Despite this, the death is deemed a suicide.
In the moments when the creature is on the prowl, director Savage shows some skill in crafting some chilling imagery. The issue is that the film never takes the time to build any lore around the boogeyman. We never learn what the creature wants, how it operates, and why it is afraid of light. These rules are key to the plot but remain fuzzy and undefined. This creates a disconnect to the scares, reducing them to the quiet/loud formula of so many mid-tier horror films.
The Boogeyman is sadly, very generic. The creature design is impressively creepy and Savage has an eye for some unsettling images. However, the action is often too tame to shock and too familiar to scare. When Sadie goes to Lester's home and meets his wife Rita (Marin Ireland) the film gets a jolt of energy. I wanted to follow her story instead. Ireland has an off-kilter intensity that is so welcomed here. She stands out among a sea of bland horror.