The Boogeyman

Remember those childhood fears of things that go bump in the night? Well, they may not be just our imagination after all. What if there actually were creatures hiding in the closet?

That's the mental playground of filmmaker Rob Savage who, with his The Boogeyman (2023), taps into those fears of the unspoken darkness and terror that lurked under our beds and in our closets as children. While the horror filmmaker demonstrates a much-appreciated understanding of the power of the unseen, his film ultimately falls short of providing the terrifying experience it set out to deliver.

"attempts at generating fear rely too heavily on repetition, loud noises, and predictable horror tropes"

As the film opens, we meet sixteen-year-old Sadie (Sophie Thatcher, “The Book of Boba Fett”), and her 10-year-old sister, Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair, Bird Box) who are still reeling from the tragic loss of their mother. Their father, Will (Chris Messina, Argo), a psychologist with a thriving home practice, isn’t really helping the girls deal with their grief as he struggles to connect with them on an emotional level. Simply talking to the girls about their mother’s death would likely go a long way. But he doesn’t.

Things get even worse when a mysterious new patient named Lester Billings (David Dastmalchian, Dune) unexpectedly shows up desperate to get help with the grief he’s experiencing over the deaths of his children. It’s not long before the family realizes that Lester left behind some kind of evil presence that lurks in the shadows and feeds on the doom and suffering of its victims.

Throughout the film, which is co-written by Scott Beck & Bryan Woods (A Quiet Place), and in turn based upon a Stephen King short story, Savage finds his greatest success in the eerie atmosphere that permeates nearly every scene. His use of lighting and sound design, thanks to DP Eli Born and sound designer Russell Topal, effectively builds a jittery tension which contributes to the ever-present sense of unease. The shadows cast by the half-opened closet doors and the creaking of floorboards generate an atmosphere ripe with eye-covering scares. The film cleverly plays with our anticipation by capitalizing on the idea that true fear often resides in what creeps and crawls at the edges of the frame. The Boogeyman

However, despite its encouraging premise, The Boogeyman never quite capitalizes on its full potential. The pacing drags for a significant portion of the film - namely the middle, leaving us longing for more of those shadow creeps, and ceiling crawls. While a slow burn certainly works in a well-made horror film, in this case, it feels more like a sluggish crawl towards an underwhelming climax. The film's attempts at generating fear rely too heavily on repetition, loud noises, and predictable horror tropes, rendering them mostly ineffective.

Moreover, meaningful development of our main characters is sorely lacking. Despite a significant amount of screen time spent with teen-angsty Sadie as we see her emotional struggles carry over into her school relationships, the protagonists are mostly one-dimensional and fail to evoke much sympathy or investment from us. In fact, father Will is just dull and distant. And their illogical and nonsensical decisions, more often than not, undermine any momentum and tension the film builds.

Despite these shortcomings, The Boogeyman does have a handful of standout moments, namely, Savage's understanding of the power of suggestion which is evident in many scenes where he skillfully builds tension and discomfort without relying too heavily on cheap jump scares. Those genuinely terrifying moments make our skin crawl and are more often earned than not. These glimpses of his potential make it all the more disappointing when the film ultimately falls short.

2/5 stars

Film Details

The Boogeyman

MPAA Rating: PG-13.
98 mins
: Rob Savage
Scott Beck & Bryan Woods
Ralph Fiennes; Anya Taylor-Joy; Nicholas Hoult
: Sophie Thatcher; Chris Messina; Vivien Lyra Blair
From the Mind of Stephen King.
Memorable Movie Quote: "It's all just in your head."
Theatrical Distributor:
20th Century Studios
Official Site:
Release Date:
June 2, 2023
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:

Synopsis: High school student Sadie Harper and her younger sister Sawyer are reeling from the recent death of their mother and aren’t getting much support from their father, Will, a therapist who is dealing with his own pain. When a desperate patient unexpectedly shows up at their home seeking help, he leaves behind a terrifying supernatural entity that preys on families and feeds on the suffering of its victims.


The Boogeyman