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The Boogeyman

"It's the thing that comes for your kids when you're not paying attention." Lester’s (David Dastmalchian) definition of a boogeyman

No matter how he’s defined, this mythic figure has been whipping kids into good behavior for years. In the most recent adaptation of Stephen King’s short horror story, the film The Boogeyman has the titular monster mainly horrifying teen Sadie (Sophie Thatcher) and little sister Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair) along with therapist dad, Will (Chris Messina).

Helmer Rob Savage and accompanying writers from A Quiet Place and Black Swan expertly take King’s psychological demon home to create a subtle dread that somehow is tied to the recent accidental death of their mom and his wife. The demon reminds dad how he caused the accident because he was the driver while the girls just damn well miss her no matter what.

As in A Quiet Place, the monster appears late (I always feel it is not important to give body to a menacing idea and may inevitably be disappointing). The filmmakers don’t hold back on everyone’s wish to expunge this boogeyman, including any sinners in the aud who have for even a moment ignored a child (see opening quote).

This film is especially good at minimizing the usual horror tropes like jump scares and irrelevant clues while preserving such sacred ones like going into a cellar. Horror fans will appreciate the durability of this boogeyman while they experience a deeper understanding of the horror in losing a loved one and participating in that loss.

Meanwhile Savage and cinematographer Eli Born (Hellraiser 20022) have a thematic ball with a light ball that little Sawyer uses against the boogeyman. Even the lack of light in shadows serves a figurative purpose preferable to the ruder jump scares or manipulative music of garden variety scare fests.

Although this boogeyman doesn’t have the dark charm of Pennywise or the overall menace in last year’s Smile, the audience will see clearer than ever the weight of parental oversight and the punishment negligence doles out to clueless adults. It’s solid scares and intelligent psychology. Vintage King.

The Boogeyman

Director: Rob Savage (Host)

Screenplay: Scott Beck (A Quiet Place, 65), Bryan Woods (A Quiet Place), Mark Heyman (The Black Swan) based on the short story by Stephen King.

Cast: Sophie Thatcher (Prospect), Chris Messina (Argo)

Run Time: 1h 38m

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts NPR’s It’s Movie Time and hosts Cinema Classics as well as podcasts Back Talk and Double Take out of WCBE 90.5 FM. Contact him at

John DeSando holds a BA from Georgetown University and a Ph.D. in English from The University of Arizona. He served several universities as a professor, dean, and academic vice president. He has been producing and broadcasting as a film critic on It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics for more than two decades. DeSando received the Los Angeles Press Club's first-place honors for national entertainment journalism.