There’s something about the names Stephen King gives to characters that instantly evokes those fat, splintered-spine favourites from his back catalogue and my own tween years; with cover art so disturbing they would have to be laid to rest face down before I could go to sleep. The Boogeyman, adapted from his 1973 short story, has a Lester Billings. Lester Billings. Absolutely classic King.

And poor Lester (David Dastmalchian) is having an appropriately macabre time of it. His children each died horribly, their parents powerless to defend them, and the family home has been staked out by the being that claimed their lives. When Lester stumbles into the Thatchers’ house to unburden himself to therapist dad Will (Chris Messina) he is hardly conscious of the dark entity he has brought to their door. He simply wants to share his story. To let go.

Will, by contrast, cannot let go. The seismic shift in his soul following the death of his wife has left him adrift from his daughters and unable to help them heal. Appearing to listen to Lester’s tale of woe and to study the monstrous sketch that accompanies it, he is instead biding time until he can get the tormented man out. His inattention leads him to miss the valuable information Lester is sharing and to fail to hear the sound of his daughter returning home.

Sadie (Sophie Thatcher) and her sensitive little sister Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair) are trying to mask their grief with game faces as life returns to normal. Sadie mistakenly believed that her mum’s dress would act as emotional armour for her return to school. But sadly nothing from this world or the next can deflect the insensitivity of bitchy girls. Or the sinister creature that awaits the siblings indoors, tired of toying with Lester and ready to feed on a new family’s suffering.

Director Rob Savage impressed critics and audiences with his innovative debut Host. It’s such a shame he couldn’t let the same spirit of inventiveness govern this by-the-numbers adaptation. The Boogeyman is crying out to be more creepy; it’s a generic jump-scare story, yes, but one with heart and a cast giving their all to sell the scares. Eli Born’s cinematography makes evocative and eerie use of reflective surfaces and the places the light can’t quite touch. Unfortunately, the aesthetic – together with the unsettling strings of Patrick Jonsson’s score – is better than the film.

The Boogeyman is a serviceable, pulse-quickening thriller with a nippy runtime and likeable leads. The creature is probably disturbing enough to provoke sleepover screams but unremarkable for anyone whose taste has progressed beyond Stranger Things. This entry-level horror feature definitely isn’t destined for classic status. However, as a well-meaning (if too familiar) parable about working through loss – with two impressive young women at its core – teen audiences could do worse than to make this their first big-screen scary movie.

The Boogeyman opens in UK cinemas on June 2nd

The Boogeyman
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Emily Breen began writing for HeyUGuys in 2009. She favours pretzels over popcorn and rarely watches trailers as she is working hard to overcome a compulsion to ‘solve’ plots. Her trusty top five films are: Betty Blue, The Red Shoes, The Princess Bride, The Age of Innocence and The Philadelphia Story. She is troubled by people who think Tom Hanks was in The Philadelphia Story and by other human beings existing when she is at the cinema.
the-boogeyman-reviewA well made, well-meaning, if familiar, loss inspired creepshow. With two impressive young women at its core, teen audiences could do worse than to make this their first big-screen scary movie.