Monster gives a grieving family more grief in stylish horror film ‘The Boogeyman’

Widowed man’s children have reason to be afraid of the dark.

SHARE Monster gives a grieving family more grief in stylish horror film ‘The Boogeyman’
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Little Sawyer Harper (Vivien Lyra Blair), convinced there’s a monster in the house, carries around a glowing orb at night in “The Boogeyman.”

20th Century Studios

So many horror movies and supernatural thrillers involve single-parent situations, e.g., “The Exorcist,” “Signs,” “The Babadook,” “Child’s Play,” “A Quiet Place II,” “The Black Phone,” “Evil Dead Rises.” Just when the widowed or divorced mom or dad is convinced things can’t get any bleaker, that’s when the terror kicks in. Talk about overwhelming circumstances, man!

Such is the case with the shadowy and disturbing albeit somewhat predictable jump scare-filled “The Boogeyman,” which has a framework based on the 1973 Stephen King short story of the same name but expands that to feature-length. (King’s original work has been adapted twice into a short film and was also the basis of a full-length theatrical play.)

Infused with a stylish and shadowy style courtesy of director Rob Savage (“Host,” “Dashcam”), with a sharp screenplay by Scott Beck, Bryan Woods and Mark Heyman, “The Boogeyman” is a familiar but still effectively unsettling variation on the time-honored story of the terrifying entity who’s in the closet or under the bed or maybe just down the hall, waiting to pounce on you and your loved ones, even as everyone around thinks you’re nutso for insisting there’s a Boogeyman living rent-free in your house.

‘The Boogeyman’

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20th Century Studios presents a film directed by Rob Savage and written by Scott Beck, Bryan Woods and Mark Heyman, based on a Stephen King story. Rated PG-13 (for terror, violent content, teen drug use and some strong language). Running time: 98 minutes. Opens Thursday at local theaters.

“The Boogeyman” is all about trying to escape the darkness and finding the light — in more ways than one. Chris Messina is all unkempt beard and slump-shouldered grief and distant stares as Will Harper, a recently widowed therapist who conducts sessions in an office in the dimly lit, comfortably lived-in home where he lives with daughters: teenager Sadie (Sophie Thatcher) and little Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair), who keeps her room brightly lit and walks around with a glowing orb at night because she’s convinced there’s a boogeyman in the house.

Things get sticky when a clearly disturbed man named Lester Billings (David Dastmalchian, who has played so many troubled characters he makes Paul Dano look like a young Tom Hanks) pays an unannounced visit to Will’s office and starts ranting about the deaths of his three children and the presence of a monster. When Lester meets a gruesome fate, we’re beginning to wonder if maybe Sawyer is onto something. Perhaps there IS something lurking in the shadows, something not of this world.

Will is a therapist, and yet he’s unable to talk with his own daughters about the loss of their mother, pawning them off on a grief counselor (LisaGay Hamilton) who has some truly dubious techniques. It’s up to Sadie to take the lead on the investigation and do the obligatory research (there’s always a notebook filled with horrific etchings in these movies) that leads her to Lester’s home. That’s where Sadie encounters Lester’s unhinged wife (Marin Ireland in a world-class extended cameo), who is holed up in a house of horrors lit by all the candles in the world, because the Boogeyman thrives in the dark.

As is the case with a plethora of horror films about coping with death and facing fears in the form of some kind of supernatural entity, the monster is scarier before it reveals itself. Still, “The Boogeyman” is a nifty and nasty little scare-fest.

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