‘The Boogeyman’: the adaptation of Stephen King’s most chilling story is an effective youth horror drama but betrays the essence of the text


After a time when it seems that all of Stephen King’s novels are already adapted, it seems that Hollywood is not willing to abandon the brand and has begun retail. ‘The Boogeyman’ opens in theaters on June 2 and is based on one of his most chilling short stories in what seems to be an unstoppable trend to rescue his shorter pieces and turn them into a film, as is expected in ‘The Monkey’, prepared by James Wan or the recent series ‘Chapelwaite’.

This is not the first time this has happened, of course, in addition to many segment films, which are better suited to the short format, there have also been extensions of small stories that have become films, such as ‘the mass grave‘, or even in great sagas full of sequels, such as ‘Children of the Corn’. In fact, before becoming a feature film, the slasher with murderous children had a short adaptation, which was part of ‘The Night Shift Collection’, a series of small-format adaptations in which precisely we could also find the first film version of ‘El coco’.

From streaming to the big screen

The 1973 story was transferred in a crystal clear way in a 1982 short film along with which other pieces were included in the form of a VHS anthology, pairing with ‘The Woman in the Room’, which was in charge of none other than the future specialist on the writer, Frank Darabont. The adaptation was cheap and rudimentary, and despite the fact that it had bad reviews that condemned it to obscurity, it was very faithful to the source material, and its low budget ended up being strangely more sinister that the focus of the new adaptation of 20 century Studios.

Stephen King's The Boogeyman

The Boogeyman (1982)

The film, which was originally set to stream on Hulu, was destined for the big screen after several very positive screenings, the path followed by other recent films such as ‘Smile’, which made an impressive $216 million, or ‘ ‘Infernal Possession: Awakening’, which will likely reach 150. This path may prove successful, but at this point it begins to be a convincing argument. Is it happening spontaneously, or is it a form of free marketing? Judging from the result this time, It is convenient to take the announcement of the passage from the platform to the rooms with some suspicion, or to think that the test screenings fail for the good and the bad.

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The work has behind the promise Rob Savage, that until now I had only tested with the found footage format in the ‘Host’ and ‘dashcam‘, both aged prematurely. The director, in an exercise of humility, had advanced that his film was the most terrifying of all Stephen King movies, stating:

“I don’t think so that there has ever been a King adaptation that is as viscerally terrifying as this film, which deals with the source material in a way unlike any other King adaptation. We wanted it to feel true to its writing.”.

It would be cruel to recreate Savage’s audacity, given the result, but let’s say it is very, very far from being one of the good adaptations of Maine’s.

Childhood terrors, bogeymen and fear in the closet

The terror of the text is contained in two scenes, which represent the passage where a father tells his psychiatrist that he has lost his children due to attacks by a mysterious bogeyman. The piece has another conclusion that curiously now ironically coincides with the opening of ‘Smile’, which in turn was an adaptation of the short film ‘Laura Hasn’t Sleep’. Parker Finn’s work was nothing more than an almost unavowed adaptation of King’s story and in its translation to the big screen it even plays with a certain ambiguity that was key in the original text.

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As if they hadn’t read the story twice, screenwriters Mark Heyman, Scott Beck, Bryan Woods they turn the suggestion of the original into a literal template to look like a generic movie aimed at adolescent audiences. In fact, the aspect of childhood terrors and closet monsters have been better adapted in King’s own anthologies such as ‘Cat’s Eyes’ or by films such as ‘The room of fear (1988), ‘monster boys‘ (1989) or, especially the television episodes of the series ‘Tales from the Dark‘ (1983–1988) as ‘inside the closet‘ (1984) and ‘Monsters in My Room‘ (1985), and that’s what’s missing here. Synthesizer soundtrack, more ‘Phantasma’ nightmare tone, more ‘Creepshow’…

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Here, the first big update is that instead of telling the story from the patient’s perspective, we follow that of the psychologist’s daughter, a high school student named Sadie Harper who, along with her younger sister Sawyer, is recovering from recent death of their mother and seem to not get much support from their father, the text therapist, played by a wasted Chris Messina, who is dealing with his own grief. The theme of mourning, again, as a resource for conflict, is taken here with extreme laziness..

An adaptation that betrays its original source

The desperate patient leaves at home the terrifying supernatural entity that preys on families and “feeds on the suffering” of its victims. Therefore, the psychological horror on which the original idea is built, here becomes a real monster lurking in the dark. Defined by Stephen King himself, before giving the green light to adaptation as “an excellent script where the things that have been added to the story are not filler“The reality is that heThe extensions seem to respond to an ABC of rearranged topical ingredients.

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The first disappointment regarding the text is the use of a visible, tangible, monster-like creature reminiscent of movies like ‘Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark’, which diluted the possibilities of its chilling precedent in CGI. In fact, the assimilation of an elongated and humanoid shape is reminiscent of that of the rarely seen ‘Come to play’ (2020), which was somewhat tarnished by the pandemic. The resource of the characters who see the being is repeatedly recycled but nobody pays attention to them and the script tends to reiterate over and over again both the scenes of Sophie retrieving memories of her mother like the same game of what will be behind the door.

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It’s a shame because Sophie Thatcher, revealing ‘Yellowjackets’, It is great and loads with the most morose moments of the film with a dignity that the text does not contain. For the rest, the feature film has great photography, which moves away from the usual digital aspect in manufactured products, taking its texture of darkness to a good game of perception and silhouettes that works. The problem is that it has no ambitions other than to be an interchangeable product with a sequel to ‘Never turn off the light’, returning to the hackneyed resource of using lights to scare away the monster, in fact, it makes a photocopy of the climax of the brothers against the coconut of ‘Fear of the Dark‘ (2003).

Barracks Scares and CGI

So, between cuckoo-tras scares, CGI appearances in the “get away the cat” lore and a disappointing use of the volume punch, the whole is derivative and easy, with the eternal promise of a great movie that pales in comparison with recent proposals such as some mentioned or others little known, such as the Indonesian ‘Satan’s Slaves 2: Communion’, that plays with scare resources in much more creative ways. In fact, here it seems that moments from ‘Smile’ are recycled –also at the end-, the moment of the stuffed animal from ‘Deliver us from evil’ or even the coda from ‘Babadook’, without any modesty.

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There are many movies with the same title. ‘The Boogeyman’ (1980) remains a rarity with more to do with ‘Oculus’ than with this one, which at least surpasses the weak ‘Boogeyman: the gate of fear’ (2005) thanks to details such as a great design of the monster that enters with decency in the canon of movie bogeymen, but makes their existence too familiar, comparing with others that use bogeymen that do not use that name have done better, like ‘Sinister’. Vecna-esque digital ivy like black mold sprouting, results in battered, unimaginative visual details and doesn’t create any sense of threat.

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But the biggest sin of this ‘The Boogeyman’ is turning one of the most ruthless, dark and interpretable short stories from the great master of literary horror of our era into an empty artifact, that it is neither openly juvenile, like the increasingly vindicable ‘Fears 3D’, which knew how to adjust to its audience without taking them as idiots, nor intense enough to fit in with an adult audience that is not going to forget it in a week, weighing down its terror potential with moments of trauma, violin and piano keys or predictable conveniences that suddenly remove the veil before the emperor, naked and raised prematurely in forty.