Monday, June 5, 2023

The Boogeyman (2023): A Review (Review #1718)



Recently, I wrote that Book Club: The Next Chapter was "one of if not the worst movie I have seen this year". I really should know not to tempt fate that way. Nowhere near scary enough to be true horror nor schlocky enough to be good fun, The Boogeyman drowns in its own self-seriousness to be boring, illogical and just flat-out stupid.

Still grieving the death of their mother, sullen teenager Sadie (Sophie Thatcher) and more perky tween Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair) attempt to make things as best they can. Their psychiatrist father, Dr. Will Harper (Chris Messina) will talk to anyone else about anything else in his home office, but not to his daughters about his wife's death in an accident.

Sadie channels her grief by wearing her mom's clothes and berating her high school circle. Sawyer, for her part, is terrified of the dark. One day, Dr. Harper gets an unexpected and unscheduled patient, Lester Billings (David Dastmalchian). Harper breaks his "no new patients without a scheduled pre-screening" rule for Lester, who tells him he carries guilt over his children's deaths. Lester ends up hanging himself in Harper's home. 

Something evil, though, also came with Lester in his unannounced visit. This evil, which feeds off the sadness and misery of others, now targets the Harper family. Will sullen Sadie, perky Sawyer and morose Will be able to defeat "the boogeyman"?

I am not a horror film viewer. They are not my taste and I rarely get scared while watching. I do, however, attempt to see a horror film as best I can through the eyes of horror film fans. The Boogeyman fails spectacularly on every level. 

First, it is not scary. The Boogeyman does not feature prominently in the film. I would argue that he is almost superfluous to the film. He pops in, particularly at what is meant to be a climatic battle. However, he is so quickly seen that it leaves no impact.

I think director Ron Savage and screenwriters Scott Beck, Bryan Woods and Mark Heyman (with the first two sharing a "screen story" credit in their adaptation of a Stephen King short story) were more focused on making some kind of grief-centric drama than the horror film we were promised. A lot of time is spent on the Harper family grief that someone entering The Boogeyman would think this is more Ordinary People than The Black Phone

That is already bad enough, but The Boogeyman doubles down with some awful clichés that are cringe-inducing. There's the sullen teen who struggles with letting go of anything both physical and emotional. There's the psychiatrist father who cannot talk to his kids. In a curious moment in the hospital where Sawyer is recovering from the boogeyman's attack, Sadie finds her father alone. He reminisces that this is where his wife died. As performed by Thatcher and Messina, the whole thing veers dangerously close to parody.

As a side note, one moment that was meant to be scary had the audience burst out laughing. To help Sawyer overcome her fear of the dark, their psychiatrist Dr. Weller (LisaGay Hamilton) places a red light in the middle of the room. She tells Sawyer and Sadie that it will flicker quickly, then dim more and more until the room is completely dark. During one of those flickers, we see Hamilton's face pop out. With her large glasses and curled hair, the end result is more clown-like than fright fest. 

Moreover, a lot of The Boogeyman does not make sense. For example, Lester Billings commits suicide at the Harper home. Let's leave aside for now how a) Dr. Harper let someone who essentially broke into his house have an impromptu session and b) no one noticed Sadie coming back from school. To find out more about the boogeyman, Sadie comes across a tape recording of that impromptu session, which in fright she accidentally throws into a vase of water. 

My question is, why did Dr. Harper not turn in the tape to the police investigating the suicide? He to my knowledge was fully cooperative and had nothing to hide, but this pertinent piece of information was apparently completely forgotten.

Maybe, just maybe, the stress of the situation may have made Dr. Harper forget he recorded the last words of someone who killed himself in his home. What is more idiotic is when Sadie goes to the Lemmings' home. The house appears abandoned, complete with unkept dishes in the sink and spoiled food in the fridge. Out of nowhere, Mrs. Lemmings (Marin Ireland) pops out like a very low-rent Sarah Connor. She has been waiting for the boogeyman, which killed her three children in rapid succession, to return so she can kill it.

I started to wonder things like, "How does she live given the conditions of her home?", "Does no one know she is still alive and living in this dilapidated home?", and "Why did the police not interview her?". Are they even aware she is still alive? Her final end is also silly, making the traps she set so comical than horrifying.

As a side note, I kept wondering why did no one ever bother to turn the lights on when walking down dark hallways. So much of the boogeyman's powers would have faded if anyone literally hit the switch.

The Boogeyman is filled with embarrassing performances.  It might not be fair to blame the actors as they were all directed to be as blank and somber as possible. The film has a lot of staring out and sotto voce line delivery. Even the moments that try to be more lively, such as a boring slumber party in a subplot with Sadie's girlfriends that goes nowhere, The Boogeyman can't get any acting out of anyone.

Also, is there any reason why The Boogeyman ended with Elvis' Burning Love? For those who thought ending Knock at the Cabin with Boogie Shoes was silly, this should top that.  

As the film comes to the end (with a bizarre hint of a sequel), the Harpers are united in a therapy session. Emotionally relieved, Dr. Harper says "That sucked". I thought the exact same thing about The Boogeyman

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