‘The Boogeyman’ Review: Stephen King’s Classic Short Story Expands Into Effectively Dark Psychological Horror Film Focusing On Loss And Grief (2024)

If the title feels familiar you would not be wrong. The word “boogeyman” has been the subject of numerous movies all using the same moniker, at least ten on iMDB database before I stopped counting, but all of them dated post 1973 when the horror master Stephen King first published his 8-page short story in a magazine, followed five years later by its inclusion in one of his classic short story collections, “Night Shift”. So in one form or another this now 50 year old tale has become shorthand for lots of Hollywood concoctions that had nothing to do with it, but hey a good title is a good title.

King’s “The Boogeyman” was basically a two hander between a disturbed patient and his therapist who indeed turned out to be his boogeyman. It was actually shot as a short by some entertprising filmmakers in 2012, but clearly there was not enough there to make a full length feature. Screenwriters Scott Beck and Bryan Woods (A Quiet Place) cracked the code by using King’s set up as a starting point for the grief-filled family of the therapist, all reeling, following the death of their wife and mother in a car crash. Writer Mark Heyman came in along with director Rob Savage to further shape this expansion, and so calling it Stephen King’s The Boogeyman would be out of the question. It is as if King provided the match for others to actually light the fireworks.

Related Stories

SportsESPN Analyst Dick Vitale Has Cancer Once Again, This Time In Lymph Node, Will Have Surgery On Tuesday - Updated

In a era when too much isn’t enough in terms of basic thrills for today’s horror audiences, Savage and his team’s treatment here is, until the last act, more in line with classic psychological and chilling “horror” movies like 1961’s The Innocents and Robert Wise’s 1963 version of The Haunting. It begins as that much troubled man, Lester (David Dastmalchian) visits therapist Will Harper (Chris Messina) in his home office, a vintage home by the way that seems tailor made for the terror to come. He tells of his torture over being accused of killing his three children, something he says he is innocent of but nevertheless obviously consumed with. It is an awkward conversation, and this guy is creepy, but while he is there things start to go bump in the night. Whatever demons he has brought with him are beginning to do their thing. This particularly freaks out Will’s daughters, 16 year old Sadie (Sophie Thatcher) and 11 year old Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair). And though dad is a trained therapist, his own grief keeps him from effectively dealing with that of the girls, the “boogeyman” standing in as symbol of their constant pain.

Storywise Sadie takes the reins, even, and of course in pure horror movie fashion, going to Lester’s somewhat deserted and scary home where she is confronted by his wife Rita ( a perfect Marin Ireland) who gives her the frightening 411 on things as she sees it, and some sage advice on the boogeyman she really should take. Things heat up and go out of control as the tight 98 minute running time moves along, eventually to a payoff modern fans might welcome as the heretofore undefined “boogeyman” becomes, well, defined.

Personally I wish this film had the courage of its own convictions, and King’s story, and left it more to our imagnination. After all we all have opened that bedroom closet and seen variations of the boogeyman in our minds. That would not be good enough sadly for today’s crowd that demand visceral satisfaction in this genre and the special effects team does their best, but it is the weakest aspect of Savage’s film which is so darkly lit you may have to strain your eyes to make stuff out. Eli Born is the cinematographer here. Jeremy Woodward’s production design also does much to set the table for some frights, as does the sound team’s work designed to make us jump at the right spots. Overall this is a fine entry into the overrun genre so I hope people show up.

The actors do fine, but Thatcher and Blair stand out. LisaGay Hamilton and Madision Hu round out the cast. Producers are the 21 Laps team of Shawn Levy, Dan Levine, and Dan Cohen. Disney will be releasing the 20th Century Studios film in theatres Friday after abandoning, smartly, original plans to go straight to streaming on HULU. Horror films and comedies work best in theatres where you can share the experience with a bunch of strangers either screaming or laughing – or both. The studio even had such confidence in The Boogeyman as a theatrical attraction, they showed the whole thing in April to exhibitors at their CinemaCOn convention in Vegas where I saw it.

Title: The Boogeyman

Distributor: 20th Century Studios (Thur Disney)

Release Date: June 2, 2023

Director: Rob Savage

Screenplay: Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, Mark Heyman

Cast: Chris Messina, Sophie Thatcher, Vivien Lyra Blair, Marin Ireland, Madison Hu, LisaGay Hamilton, David Dastmalchian

Rating: PG13

Running Time: 1 hour and 38 minutes

‘The Boogeyman’ Review: Stephen King’s Classic Short Story Expands Into Effectively Dark Psychological Horror Film Focusing On Loss And Grief (2024)


What is the story behind the boogeyman? ›

Creation of the bogeyman

It is generally thought that the bogeyman was invented to serve as a caution or deterrent to children. By warning children that a bogeyman will capture them if they stray into the dark woods, for instance, parents might better ensure that children are cautious about where they go and when.

What happens in the Boogeyman short story? ›

The Boogeyman systematically terrorizes and murders all three of Lester's children, each time in occurrences that look like simple, but tragic accidents. Doctors rule the three deaths accidental, but Lester knows they've really been dispatched by the slimy creature hiding in his closet.

What does the ending of 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 is the movie Boogeyman about? ›

What does The Boogeyman symbolize? ›

What does the Boogeyman represent? The Boogeyman is the personification of a creature who attacks children for perceived bad behavior. Stories of its existence are usually told to children by adults to scare them in an attempt to prevent them from misbehaving.

What does The Boogeyman do to his victims? ›

The large majority of bogeymen just function to frighten children with potential punishments, and not actually to inflict much damage. The more vicious bogeyman is said to steal the children at night, and even to eat them, or to commit some other violence.

What happened to the mom in Boogeyman? ›

Plot. Therapist Will Harper is struggling to overcome the death of his wife, who died suddenly in a car crash. His daughters, Sadie and Sawyer, are likewise struggling to deal with their mother's passing. One day, a disturbed man called Lester Billings visits Will's office.

What is the real meaning of Boogeyman? ›

1. : a monstrous imaginary figure used in threatening children. 2. : a terrifying or dreaded person or thing : bugbear.

Is The Boogeyman really scary? ›

The film is off to a very creepy start, and the creepiness never lets go. This film is relentless, as it never allows the viewer to take a breath. It grabs you from the opening scene and completely reels you in, only to let go after the finale. Sadie (Sophie Thatcher) recently lost her mom in a car accident.

What Stephen King story is The Boogeyman based on? ›

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. A couple of the characters in the film share names with characters from the book, and one of them does similar things.

What fear does The Boogeyman represent? ›

The Boogeyman is one of the strongest Tulpas to ever exist, personifying the fear of the dark, of the strange, of the unknown. He has many interesting powers and abilities that somewhat vary with his different moods and appearances.

What is the myth of The Boogeyman? ›

Boogeyman-like beings are almost universal, common to the folklore of many countries. All of these have a similar concept, a mysterious being who punishes kids for being naughty. Bogeymen may target a specific mischief such as one that punishes children who suck their thumbs or misbehavior in general.

Was The Boogeyman real in real life? ›

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.

Is The Boogeyman good or bad? ›

The Boogeyman might fall short of its terrifying source material, but a spooky atmosphere and some solid performances help keep the chills coming. If you don't mind spending a lot of time waiting for things to happen, The Boogeyman is worth watching for some solid jump scares.

How did John Wick get the name Boogeyman? ›

Upon release, he was manipulated into joining the underground crime world operating out of the Continental Hotel chain. John became the top enforcer for the New York Russian crime syndicate, becoming an infamous hitman. He was nicknamed "Baba Yaga" after the supernatural Boogeyman-like entity in Slavic folklore.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Trent Wehner

Last Updated:

Views: 6217

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (56 voted)

Reviews: 95% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Trent Wehner

Birthday: 1993-03-14

Address: 872 Kevin Squares, New Codyville, AK 01785-0416

Phone: +18698800304764

Job: Senior Farming Developer

Hobby: Paintball, Calligraphy, Hunting, Flying disc, Lapidary, Rafting, Inline skating

Introduction: My name is Trent Wehner, I am a talented, brainy, zealous, light, funny, gleaming, attractive person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.