NEW YORK (OSV News) – Way back in the days of Watergate, a youthful, little-known author published a short story that played on some of the stereotypical fears of children. About a decade later, his tale became a 28-minute film helmed and co-written by Jeff Schiro.
Forty years on from that adaptation, director Rob Savage's feature-length screen version of horror-meister Stephen King's yarn arrives as the above-average chiller "The Boogeyman" (20th Century). While certainly not suitable for those who still need reassurance while being tucked in at night, the film is sufficiently restrained to be possibly acceptable for older teens.
Recently widowed by a car accident, psychiatrist Will Harper (Chris Messina) is having trouble coming to grips with his sudden loss. So, too, are his daughters, 16-year-old Sadie (Sophie Thatcher) and 10-year-old Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair).
As he carries on with his career, Will is visited by a troubled would-be patient, Lester Billings (David Dastmalchian), who has a macabre personal history to relate. All three of his children, Lester tells Will, died amid mysterious circumstances and he's convinced that the malignant monster of the title was responsible.
Will is, of course, inclined to dismiss this notion as nothing more than the product of an unhealthy mind. But in the wake of Lester's visit, eerie things begin happening in his own household, with increasingly unsettling results.
As King aficionados will recognize, this plot departs considerably from that of its source material. Given that the print version transpires entirely in Will's office, however, some form of cinematic opening up was probably a necessity.
Catholic viewers as well as fans of classic movies will note that, while comforting Sawyer, Sadie sings her the lullaby "Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral" and the song also crops up in later scenes. This early 20th-century Tin Pan Alley tune by James Royce Shannon featured significantly, of course, in the clergy-themed 1944 blend of music, comedy and drama "Going My Way."
Happily, for all the menace currently on screen, there isn't a knife-wielding or shotgun-toting maniac anywhere in sight. Instead, Savage's relatively subtle approach involves shadowy closets, dimly heard noises and characters relying heavily on nightlights.
Along with such directorial reserve, the proceedings also benefit from the credible human dynamics of the haunted clan. Grief has not only rendered Will uncommunicative, it has left him unwilling or unable to pay sufficient attention to Sadie as she navigates adolescence -- much less to Sawyer's seemingly irrational and childish fears about an unwelcome visitor in her room.
Scott Beck and Bryan Woods' script avoids all but minimal bloodletting while also taking it easy on off-color dialogue. As a result, some parents may be inclined to interpret the guidance below with liberality.
The film contains stylized but briefly disturbing violence, gruesome sights, fleeting scatological humor, a couple of instances each of profanity, milder swearing and crass talk, a rough expression and several crude terms. The OSV News classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. - - - John Mulderig is media reviewer for OSV News. Follow him on Twitter @JohnMulderig1.- - -CAPSULE REVIEW"The Boogeyman" (20th Century)Above-average chiller in which a recently widowed and still grieving father (Chris Messina) and his equally bereft daughters (Sophie Thatcher and Vivien Lyra Blair) become the victims of the unwelcome visitor of the title, with predictably unsettling results. Director Rob Savage's relatively subtle screen version of a 1973 short story by horror-meister Stephen King avoids all but minimal bloodletting and benefits from the credible human dynamics of the haunted clan. Scott Beck and Bryan Woods' script also takes it easy on off-color dialogue, making this tingler possibly acceptable for older teens. Stylized but briefly disturbing violence, gruesome sights, fleeting scatological humor, a couple of instances each of profanity, milder swearing and crass talk, a rough expression, several crude terms. The OSV News classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. - - -CLASSIFICATION"The Boogeyman" (20th Century) – OSV News classification, A-III -- adults. Motion Picture Association rating, PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.