The Boogeyman movie review & film summary (2023) | Roger Ebert (2024)


The Boogeyman movie review & film summary (2023) | Roger Ebert (1)

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Rob Savage has proven twice that he can aim higher than “The Boogeyman,” an emotionally numbing horror movie and counter-intuitive self-challenge to make PG-13 horror scary. The filmmaker’s previous ventures—“Host,” about a haunted Zoom seance, and “Dashcam,” about a rapping anti-vaxxer’s live-streamed descent into hell—led with innovation and provocation. They’re as current as a WiFi signal and in turn, helped push horror forward. Primed to be this June’s Horror Movie of the Month, “The Boogeyman” is packed with familiar beats and little personality, the horror equivalent of a rising music star making a fan-friendlyChristmas album as their biggest project yet.


To be fair, it’s not the best source. When "The Boogeyman"short story came from “The Mind of Stephen King,” as this movie's poster boasts, the mythic creature was stretched into a broad embodiment of fear and paranoia, conveyed in a two-person conversation and capped with a cheesy twist. Now, adapted here by “A Quiet Place” writers Scott Beck & Bryan Woods, and Mark Heyman, the dark-loving, door-bursting, child-terrorizing night monster’s significance is even broader with the significance of loss.

Savage has thrown together a wonky seance for PG-13 horror movies from over a decade ago, with the smothering self-seriousness of recent “elevated horror” debates intact. It’s both soft around the edges from its reliance on peek-a-boo jump scares and also so deadset on being the latest gut-wrenching story about grief, this time dragging a therapist father, Chris Messina’s Dr. Will Harper, and his two daughters, Sadie (Sophie Thatcher) and the younger Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair) through the murk. The family’s mother passed away a year ago in a car accident.

We sense the grief in the home’s stark atmosphere and the craven blacks and browns from production designer Jeremy Woodward and cinematographer Eli Born that make darkness prevalent even in the daytime. But “The Boogeyman” does not have the emotional tact to make us feel such vital sorrow, only pity for the sisters (Thatcher, giving an excellent genre performance, is our lifeline not to lose interest entirely). Instead, in between some decent flashbang sequences where the girls are terrorized at night by something we only see in brief moments, we are stuck with a dour tone that numbs us and makes the film feel much longer than it is.


The Boogeyman enters the Harpers' hollowed-out and extra creaky home in the form of Lester (from the short story), played here by David Dastmalchian at his most cryptic and also as a type of character development shorthand. After sharing a gruesome tale about the death of his children and a strong monster, he sneaks away and hangs himself in the dead mother’s art closet, planting the monster in their home.

Lester’s suicide is just another death in the Harper world, and like the loss of Will’s wife and the children’s mother, he doesn’t really want to talk about it. In ways both proverbial and literal, Sadie and Sawyer are left in the dark. Sadie is a vulnerable loner and wears one of her mother’s dresses to school only for a bully to smash food all over it; Sawyer is so timid that she sleeps with a giant light ball. Both of them just want some inner peace, which is disrupted by aggressive bumps in the night and closet doors that suddenly burst open or slam shut.

Savage likely got the job to direct “The Boogeyman” from how he previously used negative space and points-of-view, whether it’s the darkness behind someone on a candle-lit Zoom call or the fuzzy image of a figure standing in the middle of the road, waiting for a camera’s focus to adjust. There are only such passing thrills in this movie, which has a formulaic approach to scares that rely greatly on sound mixing, false alarms, and kids in danger. In the film’s first half, it makes for a sometimes uneasy—but hardly scary—atmosphere. The use of spare light and soundis its most clever facet, like when Sawyer tumbles her big light ball into the unknown down the hallway, hoping she isn't right about what's on the other side.

Throughout this modern-set story, Savage’s technological sense is curiously neglected. For all the talk about how the Boogeyman hates light, the script more or less ignores the handiness that a cell phone flashlight could have in thwarting its creature or inspiring more clever screenwriting. Such an omissionbecomes glaring as the monster's terrorloses its scant power over us later on. To put it in Stephen King-speak, isn’t Pennywise from “It” much more frightening as a clown in the distance than a giant spider up close? Savage’s “The Boogeyman” is a dated pest control saga in need of an update.

Available in theaters on June 2nd.


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Film Credits

The Boogeyman movie review & film summary (2023) | Roger Ebert (9)

The Boogeyman (2023)

Rated PG-13for terror, violent content, teen drug use and some strong language.

98 minutes


Sophie Thatcheras Sadie Harper

Chris Messinaas Will Harper

Vivien Lyra Blairas Sawyer Harper

David Dastmalchianas Lester Billings

Marin Irelandas Rita Billings

Madison Huas Bethany

Maddie Nicholsas Natalie

Mabel Tyleras Abby


  • Rob Savage

Writer (based upon the short story by)

  • Stephen King

Writer (story by)

  • Scott Beck
  • Bryan Woods


  • Scott Beck
  • Bryan Woods
  • Mark Heyman


  • Eli Born


  • Peter Gvozdas


  • Patrick Jonsson

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The Boogeyman movie review & film summary (2023) | Roger Ebert (2024)


What is The Boogeyman 2023 about? ›

What happens in The Boogeyman movie? ›

A battle with the Boogeyman ensues, in which it tries to suck the life out of Sadie, but the family fight back and Sadie sets the creature on fire using her mother's lighter and an aerosol can. Eventually, the monster is defeated, and Will, Sadie and Sawyer escape their house, which is now engulfed by flames.

Is The Boogeyman 2023 worth watching? ›

The Boogeyman has become a great horror film based on a short story by Stephen King. The film is exciting and the makers respond well to the childish fears of a monster in the closet or under your bed. No unnecessary filth or an extremely bloody whole, no, The Boogeyman plays more with the viewer's imagination.

What is The Boogeyman movie based on? ›

Production. The Boogeyman is a film adaptation of Stephen King's 1973 short story "The Boogeyman".

What is the main idea of The Boogeyman? ›

Analysis: “The Boogeyman”

Woven around central themes such as The Nature of Fear and Guilt as Self-Punishment, “The Boogeyman” tells the story of a man who must grapple with monsters both within and outside of himself.

What short story is The Boogeyman based on? ›

“The Boogeyman” carries on that unfortunate tradition. It's a pretty bad movie — not particularly scary, not easy to follow, not a bit of fun. But it's also weird. It is, we learn in the credits, indeed based on the King story of the same name, from his 1978 collection “Night Shift.” Sort of.

What is the real story of The Boogeyman? ›

The boogeyman is not real, but most cultures have some version of the boogeyman myth, although they go by many, many different names. The actual "boogeyman" name most likely originated sometime in the 19th century, but the mythology of these kinds of "monsters" have been around for much longer than that.

What did the ending of The Boogeyman mean? ›

The Boogeyman's Ending Real Meaning Explained

Despite Sadie and her family getting to a much better place, with Will openly talking about the loss of his wife and The Boogeyman seemingly dying in physical form, the film suggests that grief will continue to be prevalent in one's life no matter how much time has passed.

What happened to the mom in The Boogeyman? ›

The Boogeyman reveals that Sadie and Sawyer recently lost their mother in a car crash. The sisters and their father are having a hard time coping with her death, and Will even admits he doesn't know how their mother was able to handle everything she took on as a mother.

Is The Boogeyman 2023 a metaphor? ›

Outside of Savage's visual verve, there's really little else to The Boogeyman, its attempt to use its central villain as a metaphor for emotional trauma never working quite as well as it did in last year's Smile (horror as therapy is getting a tad exhausting in general).

How scary is the movie The Boogeyman? ›

“The Boogeyman” was surprisingly (and unfortunately) much scarier than I had anticipated. I knew it was an adaptation of a short story by Stephen King. I have seen quite a few movie adaptations based on stories written by King, and they have been intense but not necessarily scary.

What is the plot of Boogeyman? ›

Is The Boogeyman movie demonic? ›

The Boogeyman turns out to be a real demonic force. The demon threatens the ones he loves, so Tim decides to take action. BOOGEYMAN the movie is filled with scary scenes and scary supernatural encounters with the demonic title character.

What is the point of view of The Boogeyman? ›

The story “The Boogeyman” by Stephen King is told from the point of view of a third-person narrator. The point of view switches to the first-person when Lester Billings recounts the past events in his dialogue with Dr Harper, which makes up the majority of the story.

What is the story of The Boogeyman monster? ›

Because of the myth's global prevalence, it is difficult to find the original source of the legends. The Bogeyman was first referenced for the hobgoblins described in the 16th century England. Many believed that they were made to torment humans, and while some only played simple pranks, others were more foul in nature.

What was The Boogeyman doing to Sadie? ›

The Boogeyman is intent on killing Sadie and Sawyer, and uses Will as bait after killing Rita, Lester Billings' wife. After a few violent attacks, Sadie and Sawyer set fire to the terrifying creature. Seemingly dead, the house also catches fire, but Sadie and her family are able to make it outside to safety.

What is Chasing The Boogeyman based on? ›

There was actually an intruder in the author's childhood town that would enter people's houses and watch them sleep and steal articles of intimate clothing, but he was never caught; based on that, Richard Chizmar created the boogeyman killer for the book, while maintaining the home intruder in the story, as one of the ...

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