THE BOOGEYMAN (2023) — CULTURE CRYPT (2024)

Review:

How can I label "The Boogeyman" a "forgettable film," particularly when the movie received raves from a not insignificant number of other critics as well as everyday viewers? It's an easy call, really. It's because I saw "The Boogeyman" twice, and when I watched it for the second time to write this review, I realized my memory had been wiped of almost every detail from my screening just three months prior. That's quite literally the very definition of a "forgettable film."

Admittedly, "The Boogeyman" falls from one of my least favorite branches on the horror tree: the "sibling/guardian protects a young child from an evil entity until skeptical adults finally get with the program" subgenre. I'm sure there's a shorter term for that category. I may have even used one myself in any of the umpteen previous reviews I've written about kids fighting shapes in the shadows while desperately pleading for parents to pay attention. Anyway, this is one of my least favorite horror subgenres because it's one of the most formulaic: troubled child encounters supernatural creature, paranormal activity gradually escalates, late-stage information dump explains everything, dropped-jaw mother/father realizes crazy claims were true all along. Yada yada yawn.

It's saying something that in a bottomless ocean of copycat films featuring these same cookie-cutter characters, Dr. Will Harper takes the cake for the "disbelieving parent" cliche. Will's severe lack of responsible parental skills is made all the more shocking by the fact that he works as a therapist. You'd think a cognitive behavioral specialist would be sensitive to the emotional trauma suffered by his teen daughter Sadie and her younger sister Sawyer following the tragic death of their mother one month ago. Surprise surprise, he isn't. Apparently he can only help others, not his own family, allowing a dark cloud of grief to rain down gloomy thunderstorms on all three perpetual frowns in their dour household.

Trained mental health professional or not, you'd also think that when a mysterious man who claims a monster killed his children suddenly commits suicide in an upstairs closet, Will might have the wherewithal to say, "Gee, maybe the kids shouldn't sleep here tonight?" Well, he doesn't do that either. For some reason, *cough* poor plotting *cough*, Will simply tucks in his girls for the night, as if one of his daughters didn't just stumble upon a dead body in their house only a few hours earlier.

While Sadie deals with the can't-be-unseen sight of a random guy's still-warm corpse, younger sister Sawyer deals with a typical monster in her closet. Of course, it takes a few eerie encounters with this entity, and an exposition-heavy encounter with the dead guy's distraught wife, before big sis Sadie ultimately believes her. The question then becomes, can they, or rather Sadie since Will barely ever interacts with the other girl, get Dad to believe before the family's final faceoff with the grief-feeding fiend?

Director Rob Savage and company put "The Boogeyman" together well enough in terms of conventional story structure, professional cinematography, serviceable acting, etc. That's the problem. With this "play it safe" approach, "The Boogeyman" becomes a small shadow of every identical frightener whose bigger footsteps it follows in. Slow and steady may win the race, but it takes the teeth out of the movie's mouth, and the film can't have any bite with soft gums alone.

Based on one of his short stories, "The Boogeyman" doesn't land all the way down in the lower tenth percentile of Stephen King adaptations. That dishonor remains reserved for the truly awful straight-to-video King creepers of the 1990s. Nevertheless, "The Boogeyman" still lands in the lower half, probably even the lowest quarter of King adaptations that count as inessential entries in the horror master's movie oeuvre.

When a horror movie's most macabre moments consist mainly of knobs turning, doors creaking, and slow walks down dark hallways, you know you're treading trodden trails. Even the high school bitch has blonde hair because "The Boogeyman" never met a tired trope it didn't welcome with eager arms.

I suppose being unable to recall anything more than the most minor details a mere three months later could be seen as a good thing. After all, how often does anyone get a second chance to experience something for what seems like the first time? Trouble is, the flavorless taste reminds you that you've doubled up on a plain nothingburger with nearly no nutritional value.

Review Score: 45

THE BOOGEYMAN (2023) — CULTURE CRYPT (2024)
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