Remember that Zoom-horror movie ‘Host‘ that came out during the pandemic? Well, director Rob Savage is back with a new horror film (we’re just going to ignore what came between these two movies – because Dashcam was abysmal), and this time he’s going mainstream with 20th Century Studios. Some might fear this could damage his “brand”, but fear not, The Boogeyman is already one of the best horror movies of 2023.

After the death of their mother/wife, it’s been hard for the Harper-family to get back to their daily routine. Little Sawyer (Vivien Lyra BlairFatal Attraction, Obi-Wan Kenobi) has been sleeping with the lights on, Sadie (Sophie ThatcherYellowjackets, The Book of Boba Fett) has trouble letting go of her mother’s belongings, and Will (Chris MessinaAir, Gaslit) has been focusing on his work as a therapist instead of actually dealing with his loss. While Sawyer and Sophie finally decide it’s time to go back to school, Will gets a visitor who’d like to talk about something that’s been bothering him. The troubled man (played by David Dastmalchian) has been struggling with the sudden death of his three children. Deaths he’s been accused of, even though there’s no real evidence to back up these claims. When this impromptu therapy session drastically goes south, Will unknowingly has let something evil into his house. A force that feeds on fear and grief.

The Walt Disney Company had a surprise hit last year with Barbarian, so to see them release another horror movie in theatres so soon after, which they haven’t been doing for quite some time, is exciting for a horror fan such as myself. The key story elements in The Boogeyman could easily be compared to movies such as Smile and Lights Out, but that shouldn’t bother you when it’s done so well as in this movie. The very first scene, prior to the title card, sets the atmosphere in such a cold blooded way, you’re already on the edge of your seat before the story (based upon the short story by Stephen King) has even started unravelling. What comes next is a mix of brilliantly set up jumpscare set pieces, a story that focuses on mental health and the aftermath of a great loss, and family.

Not only does Savage direct his film with much care for its actors and the environment they find themselves in dealing with this malevolent force, but it’s the use of lighting and sound that raises everything to another level. Horror is nothing without atmosphere, and that’s exactly what this movie excels at. Thatcher absolutely kills it in this role. She grows on you as the story moves on, but also struts into the hall of fame of scream queens with ease. I can’t wait to see what she does next, because she clearly has what it takes to get far in this business. Lyra Blair has a big role, and for a child actor she really seems to know what she’s in for. There’s certainly some room for improvement, but I was pleasantly surprised with her performance. Then there’s Messina, who plays their father. I know he’s a good actor, but I feel like the writers did him a bit dirty by giving him so little to work with. His dialogue feels very one-note and unfortunately that also shows in his performance.

The effectively atmospheric shocks push your heart rate as far as it needs to go to make sure you stay on the edge of your seat all the way to the credits. The Boogeyman delivers on entertainment and thrills to make sure you’ll sleep with the lights on tonight.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reviewed at Kinepolis Antwerp, June 1, 2023. Running time: 98 min.

PRODUCTION: A 20th Century Studios release of a 20th Century Studios, 21 Laps Entertainment & NeoReel production. Producers: Dan Cohen, Dan Levine & Shawn Levy. Executive producers: Adam Kolbrenner, Robyn Meisinger, Emily Morris, John H. Starke & Bryan Woods.

CREW: Director: Rob Savage. Writers: Scott Beck, Bryan Woods & Mark Heyman (based upon the short story by Stephen King). Cinematography: Eli Born. Editing: Peter Gvozdas. Music: Patrick Jonsson.

CAST: Sophie Thatcher, Chris Messina, Vivien Lyra Blair, David Dastmalchian, Marin Ireland, Madison Hu, Maddie Nichols, Leeann Ross, LisaGay Hamilton & Cristala Carter.

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: