Let’s start off with the obvious thing that normally makes or breaks a horror movie. The Boogeyman is rated PG-13 by the MPAA. Normally, that would be a death blow to a movie like this that’s trying to show off an incredibly frightening monster going after people in their darkest moments.

However, that rating, and the accompanying changes required to fit a horror movie into that, actually end up aiding The Boogeyman. The film is absolutely terrifying. It’s a different kind of fright, though. Instead of going straight up like the start of a roller coaster and then building that tension across the whole movie; we instead get tension rising and falling throughout the film. Director Rob Savage knows exactly which moments to ratchet up the tension and which ones to release before striking the audience with some scares.

It’s not just all atmospheric tension though. There are definitely some jump scares in The Boogeyman. These days, the phrase “jump scare” feels almost like a curse word, but The Boogeyman does have something pop out from the shadows just for the sake of it. The scares here all happen for a reason and aid the development of the characters and the story.

Speaking of those characters, we get some absolutely smashing performances out of our three leads.

The Three Leads And An Award-Worthy Performance From David Dastmalchian

The Boogeyman centers on a family going through one of the worst tragedies you can imagine, a mother dying. It follows Sadie (Sophie Thatcher), Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair), and Will (Chris Messina). Each of them deals with the grief in their own way. Sadie covets her mother’s old possessions like a dress and her art studio. Will shuts down and doesn’t let anyone in, even his therapist. Sawyer is a bit too young to deal with the gravity of the entire thing, but even she gets somewhat bullied at school by the other kids for having a dead parent.

This comes to a head when Will lets in a patient off the street, Lester Billings (David Dastmalchian). If The Boogeyman wasn’t already so great, this one scene involving Lester and Will at the beginning of the film would be worth the price of admission alone. Dastmalchian and Messina dance around the horrific things that Lester has seen/done. Once a picture of the monster that did all these atrocities comes out, all bets are off.

It’s a masterclass from Dastmalchian and Rob Savage on how to build up tension in a scene. Watching it, you’ll have this sense of dread that never leaves while they’re on screen. It may be a small role, but Dastmalchian really gives an amazing performance.

Vivien Lyra Blair and Sophie Thatcher both bring something special to their roles. Sadie and Sawyer have a great relationship with one another as sisters. The monster in the film tests that relationship and even breaks it down in a couple of spots. Sadie is an extremely sympathetic lead. The things she gets put through in this film, outside of an ancient monster trying to kill her, would be enough for a horror movie. But when you add into that a primordial demonic force of nature, it makes for quite the sympathetic main character.

The Monster Is CGI, But It Works

In a movie like The Boogeyman, the monster is make or break. If they show it too much, it’s not scary. If they don’t show it enough, it’s not scary. Like other movie monsters like Xenopmorphs or the Shark from Jaws, this monster is on screen for just the right amount of time. The moments where the monster is there are some of the most frightening and terrifying of this generation. The moments where you don’t see the monster, or it’s inferred to be there, are just as horrifying. There are a couple of scenes in particular where it makes great use of the power to mimic people’s voices. Those are just as scary as any time The Boogeyman strikes.

Through it all, there are several set pieces and scenes that are inventive and add some new tools to a generation of horror filmmakers out there. There’s one scene in particular where Sawyer is playing video games and uses the light from the TV to try to illuminate the room. With every ‘on-screen” explosion lighting up the room, it makes the scene more and more tense.

For Stephen King superfans, there are tons of references and allusions packed into The Boogeyman. The changes that were made to adapt a 7-page short story to a feature film are fantastic. It still captures some of that classic Stephen King essence without just blindly following the source material.

Through it all, The Boogeyman is one of the best examples of adaptation in the horror genre. It takes a simple premise about one of the most ancient and evil monsters that we all know, The Boogeyman. It tells an emotional story about grief and overcoming tragedy with some very creative jump-scares and tense scenes. Most importantly it makes you care about the characters and the emotions that they’re feeling. After watching this movie, you won’t be leaving any closet doors open for a while.

The Boogeyman releases in theaters on June 2nd.

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