The Boogeyman movie review & film summary (2023) | Roger Ebert (2024)


The Boogeyman movie review & film summary (2023) | Roger Ebert (1)

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Rob Savage has proven twice that he can aim higher than “The Boogeyman,” an emotionally numbing horror movie and counter-intuitive self-challenge to make PG-13 horror scary. The filmmaker’s previous ventures—“Host,” about a haunted Zoom seance, and “Dashcam,” about a rapping anti-vaxxer’s live-streamed descent into hell—led with innovation and provocation. They’re as current as a WiFi signal and in turn, helped push horror forward. Primed to be this June’s Horror Movie of the Month, “The Boogeyman” is packed with familiar beats and little personality, the horror equivalent of a rising music star making a fan-friendlyChristmas album as their biggest project yet.


To be fair, it’s not the best source. When "The Boogeyman"short story came from “The Mind of Stephen King,” as this movie's poster boasts, the mythic creature was stretched into a broad embodiment of fear and paranoia, conveyed in a two-person conversation and capped with a cheesy twist. Now, adapted here by “A Quiet Place” writers Scott Beck & Bryan Woods, and Mark Heyman, the dark-loving, door-bursting, child-terrorizing night monster’s significance is even broader with the significance of loss.

Savage has thrown together a wonky seance for PG-13 horror movies from over a decade ago, with the smothering self-seriousness of recent “elevated horror” debates intact. It’s both soft around the edges from its reliance on peek-a-boo jump scares and also so deadset on being the latest gut-wrenching story about grief, this time dragging a therapist father, Chris Messina’s Dr. Will Harper, and his two daughters, Sadie (Sophie Thatcher) and the younger Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair) through the murk. The family’s mother passed away a year ago in a car accident.

We sense the grief in the home’s stark atmosphere and the craven blacks and browns from production designer Jeremy Woodward and cinematographer Eli Born that make darkness prevalent even in the daytime. But “The Boogeyman” does not have the emotional tact to make us feel such vital sorrow, only pity for the sisters (Thatcher, giving an excellent genre performance, is our lifeline not to lose interest entirely). Instead, in between some decent flashbang sequences where the girls are terrorized at night by something we only see in brief moments, we are stuck with a dour tone that numbs us and makes the film feel much longer than it is.


The Boogeyman enters the Harpers' hollowed-out and extra creaky home in the form of Lester (from the short story), played here by David Dastmalchian at his most cryptic and also as a type of character development shorthand. After sharing a gruesome tale about the death of his children and a strong monster, he sneaks away and hangs himself in the dead mother’s art closet, planting the monster in their home.

Lester’s suicide is just another death in the Harper world, and like the loss of Will’s wife and the children’s mother, he doesn’t really want to talk about it. In ways both proverbial and literal, Sadie and Sawyer are left in the dark. Sadie is a vulnerable loner and wears one of her mother’s dresses to school only for a bully to smash food all over it; Sawyer is so timid that she sleeps with a giant light ball. Both of them just want some inner peace, which is disrupted by aggressive bumps in the night and closet doors that suddenly burst open or slam shut.

Savage likely got the job to direct “The Boogeyman” from how he previously used negative space and points-of-view, whether it’s the darkness behind someone on a candle-lit Zoom call or the fuzzy image of a figure standing in the middle of the road, waiting for a camera’s focus to adjust. There are only such passing thrills in this movie, which has a formulaic approach to scares that rely greatly on sound mixing, false alarms, and kids in danger. In the film’s first half, it makes for a sometimes uneasy—but hardly scary—atmosphere. The use of spare light and soundis its most clever facet, like when Sawyer tumbles her big light ball into the unknown down the hallway, hoping she isn't right about what's on the other side.

Throughout this modern-set story, Savage’s technological sense is curiously neglected. For all the talk about how the Boogeyman hates light, the script more or less ignores the handiness that a cell phone flashlight could have in thwarting its creature or inspiring more clever screenwriting. Such an omissionbecomes glaring as the monster's terrorloses its scant power over us later on. To put it in Stephen King-speak, isn’t Pennywise from “It” much more frightening as a clown in the distance than a giant spider up close? Savage’s “The Boogeyman” is a dated pest control saga in need of an update.

Available in theaters on June 2nd.


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Film Credits

The Boogeyman movie review & film summary (2023) | Roger Ebert (9)

The Boogeyman (2023)

Rated PG-13for terror, violent content, teen drug use and some strong language.

98 minutes


Sophie Thatcheras Sadie Harper

Chris Messinaas Will Harper

Vivien Lyra Blairas Sawyer Harper

David Dastmalchianas Lester Billings

Marin Irelandas Rita Billings

Madison Huas Bethany

Maddie Nicholsas Natalie

Mabel Tyleras Abby


  • Rob Savage

Writer (based upon the short story by)

  • Stephen King

Writer (story by)

  • Scott Beck
  • Bryan Woods


  • Scott Beck
  • Bryan Woods
  • Mark Heyman


  • Eli Born


  • Peter Gvozdas


  • Patrick Jonsson

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The Boogeyman movie review & film summary (2023) | Roger Ebert (2024)


What is the movie The Boogeyman 2023 about? ›

What happens in The Boogeyman movie? ›

The Boogeyman is intent on killing Sadie and Sawyer, and uses Will as bait after killing Rita, Lester Billings' wife. After a few violent attacks, Sadie and Sawyer set fire to the terrifying creature. Seemingly dead, the house also catches fire, but Sadie and her family are able to make it outside to safety.

Is The Boogeyman ok for 13 year olds? ›

The MPAA gave The Boogeyman a PG-13 rating for terror, violent content, teen drug use and some strong language. As with all horror films, there are scary elements. A big part of The Boogeyman's eeriness stems from the terrifying nature of the titular creature.

What was Ebert's last review? ›

The last review Ebert wrote was for To the Wonder, which he gave 3.5 out of 4 stars in a review for the Chicago Sun-Times. It was posthumously published on April 6, 2013. In July 2013, a previously unpublished review of Computer Chess appeared on Ebert's website.

What is the main idea of The Boogeyman? ›

Through Lester's story of how each of his children died by the Boogeyman coming out of their closets, King taps into our natural fear of monsters in the dark. There are two main sources of trouble in the story. First, there is Lester's struggle with guilt and fear as he tries to deal with the deaths of his children.

What is the point of view of The Boogeyman? ›

The story “The Boogeyman” by Stephen King is told from the point of view of a third-person narrator. The point of view switches to the first-person when Lester Billings recounts the past events in his dialogue with Dr Harper, which makes up the majority of the story.

Is The Boogeyman disturbing? ›

The film is off to a very creepy start, and the creepiness never lets go. This film is relentless, as it never allows the viewer to take a breath. It grabs you from the opening scene and completely reels you in, only to let go after the finale. Sadie (Sophie Thatcher) recently lost her mom in a car accident.

What happened to the mom on The Boogeyman? ›

Plot. Therapist Will Harper is struggling to overcome the death of his wife, who died suddenly in a car crash. His daughters, Sadie and Sawyer, are likewise struggling to deal with their mother's passing. One day, a disturbed man called Lester Billings visits Will's office.

Is The Boogeyman movie gory? ›

Violence & Gore (6)

Occasional moderate sene of threat throughout related to a mysterious creature that stalks a teenage girl and her grief-striken family. Brief sustained attacks involving stabbings and death of children include blood spatter and the use of guns or flame-throwing devices to combat the creature.

What were Roger Ebert's final words? ›

Sometime ago, I heard that Roger Ebert's wife, Chaz, talked about Roger's last words. He died of cancer in 2013. “Life is but a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Why is Roger Ebert so famous? ›

Roger Ebert (born June 18, 1942, Urbana, Illinois, U.S.—died April 4, 2013, Chicago, Illinois) was an American film critic, perhaps the best known of his profession, who became the first person to receive a Pulitzer Prize for film criticism (1975).

How old was Ebert when he died? ›

On April 4, 2013, one of America's best-known and most influential movie critics, Roger Ebert, who reviewed movies for the Chicago Sun-Times for 46 years and on TV for 31 years, dies at age 70 after battling cancer.

What is The Boogeyman movie based on? ›

Based on the 1973 short story of the same name by Stephen King, the film follows a family that becomes haunted by the Boogeyman after a troubled man visits and inadvertently brings the creature to them. The ensemble cast includes Sophie Thatcher, Chris Messina, Vivien Lyra Blair, and David Dastmalchian.

What is the monster in Boogeyman 2023? ›

The Boogeyman is the titular main antagonist of the 2023 horror film The Boogeyman, based off the Stephen King short story of the same name. It is a monster of unknown origin that targets and murders entire families, usually ones that have experienced a loss of a family member. For its literary counterpart, see here.

What short story is The Boogeyman based on? ›

“The Boogeyman” carries on that unfortunate tradition. It's a pretty bad movie — not particularly scary, not easy to follow, not a bit of fun. But it's also weird. It is, we learn in the credits, indeed based on the King story of the same name, from his 1978 collection “Night Shift.” Sort of.

Is The Boogeyman movie demonic? ›

The Boogeyman turns out to be a real demonic force. The demon threatens the ones he loves, so Tim decides to take action. BOOGEYMAN the movie is filled with scary scenes and scary supernatural encounters with the demonic title character.

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