The Boogeyman. MA15+, 98 minutes. 3 stars
You know that moment when you wake up in the middle of the night, and you're not sure what stirred you?
It's stiflingly dark, you're still mostly asleep and your brain can't quite make sense of what's around you.
There's a weird noise somewhere in the corner of the room. You try to focus on it, but it's still so dark and you're still so sleepy. Your heart rate begins to rise. You hold your breath.
What is in this room with me, you ask yourself. What is that shadow - or is it a shadow? Is it something more malicious?
The Boogeyman is that unsettled, anxiety-inducing moment rendered into a film.
Developed from a Stephen King short story of the same name written in 1978, which was featured in short story collection Night Shift, the film feeds on the fear and confusion that goes hand-in-hand with darkness and grief.
The original short story was just a single scene - a man named Lester Billings visits a therapist to explain how the Boogeyman killed his three children. It's little more than a monologue, filled with the terror, paranoia and heartache of someone who believes a monster took the lives of his kids.
The film does feature this scene, but expands the story. Billings - played memorably by Ant-Man's David Dastmalchian - visits therapist Will Harper (the reliably good Chris Messina, Air) at his home office, dropping in without an appointment. He shares his story of loss, some drawings his children made of the thing in the dark, and gets terrified at the sight of an open closet door.
But Billings brings more than his sorrows and fears into the house - he brings, unsurprisingly, the Boogeyman.
The Harper family - Will and his daughters Sadie (Sophie Thatcher) and Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair) - are suffering their own grief, with the recent loss of their mother/wife. Sadie, a moody teen, is trying to figure out how to move forward without shutting the memories of her mother out, while young Sawyer is struggling with sleeping alone. Will, meanwhile, has selected avoidance as his coping mechanism of choice.
When struck by a new, shocking tragedy at home, the Boogeyman has something fresh to feed on, and sets about making life hell for the younger Harpers.
Sadie is determined not to let this ruin their family any further, and seeks to learn more about the beast, leading her to the Billings home - where Marin Ireland (The Umbrella Academy) has a pretty stellar turn as Lester's wife.
The Boogeyman is a pretty standard things-that-go-bump-in-the-night horror film, elevated by dedicated performances from Messina and the young actors.
Director Rob Savage has done a lot of work in shorts, and you can see this influence in the construction of scenes that could almost stand alone.
There are moments and themes to remind you of Stranger Things, The Haunting of Hill House, The Prisoner of Azkaban, The Babadook and Lights Out, but not enough to distract from the story at hand.
The scene shown in the first trailer - young Sadie rolling her luminescent moon toy, terrified, under the bed to check for monsters - is particularly effective and one of several jump scares.
Though if you're not a fan of movies that are visually dark, you're out of luck here - there's not a great deal of light, and the selected use of score and silence only aids the building of tension.
As far as adaptations of Stephen King works go, it's pretty solid. It's better than, say, the recent Mr Harrigan's Phone and Firestarter, but not as good as Doctor Sleep or It.
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