I started reading Stephen King in high school. While The Stand and The Shining were some of my favorites (and still are), his short story collection, Night Shift, featured his freakiest work at the time. One tale in particular, “The Boogeyman,” was the first thing I ever read that truly scared the hell out of me.
Being that it was only eight pages long, had two characters and took place in a single room, I knew any feature-length movie adaptation would be seriously re-worked and padded out. And why not? Hollywood’s been doing that with King’s shorts since the ‘80s. But aside from the title, The Boogeyman bears absolutely no resemblance to its source material. I'm confident they could've left King’s name completely out of the credits with no worries of being sued for plagiarism.
Whereas the story featured a desperate man telling a psychiatrist that his young children were killed by a closet-dwelling entity, the movie serves-up just another CGI monster, with troubled teenager Sadie Harper (Sophie Thatcher) as the main protagonist. Still mourning the recent death of her mother, Sadie’s relationship with Dad (Chris Messina) has become strained and she’s distanced herself from friends at school. When younger sister Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair) claims there’s a monster in her room, Sadie’s initially skeptical, at least until she encounters it herself and learns about the last family it killed.
|The real terror of The Boogeyman...losing the remote.|
But taken on its own terms, The Boogeyman isn’t completely without merit. Director Rob Savage maintains a grim, serious tone, tosses in a couple of decent jump-scares and wisely keeps his monster lurking in the shadows for most of the film (which is good, because when fully revealed, it’s more impressive than scary). And while King's terrifying tale has been rendered generic and predictable, it benefits from good overall performances (especially David Dastmalchian in a small but pivotal role).
Featuring almost nothing from the original story, The Boogeyman basically boasts the author’s name strictly for brand recognition. But it isn't the first movie to do that, nor is it the worst. With tempered expectations, this is a fairly entertaining horror film, though I suspect viewers who have never read King’s story will enjoy it more than those who have.