Sophie Thatcher in The Boogeyman.

“The Boogeyman” was one of the first Stephen King short stories I read back when I was a kid, and it scared the shit out of me. King had a real talent for pure, raw horror back in the day, and his Night Shift short-story collection contained a lot of King classics, including “The Boogeyman.”

Director Rob Savage’s film adaptation is a missed opportunity. He needed to pad King’s original story to justify a feature film, because the short story covered just one moment—when a father named Lester Billings (David Dastmalchian) went to see therapist Will Harper (Chris Messina) and told the story of his children dying at the hands of a mysterious, malevolent force.

I re-read that original King story. It didn’t scare me in the way it originally did; it’s almost a little goofy in how it plays out. Credit goes to Savage and his writers for fleshing out the story of Will Harper and his kids, Sadie (Sophie Thatcher) and Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair). It’s an interesting, headier angle than what King originally delivered.

The problem: It’s just not all that scary, and you can thank ye old PG-13 rating for that. Much of the action is way too dark visually; the potential for true horror is dialed down, all in favor of the sort of family drama we have seen before.

It is too bad. Thatcher is decent in the main role, a teen dealing with lousy classmates similar to King’s Carrie (although not quite as sinister).

Blair, the only good thing about the terrible Obi-Wan series that Disney+ punished us with (she played young Leia), is a solid young actress who does “frightened” well.

Sadly, The Boogeyman is just not scary in the way it needs to be scary. The action is drawn out; the monster itself is never fully revealed or presented in a way that makes it memorable; and the movie ultimately feels too timid.

The opening scene—with a child crying in a bedroom, as something is clearly lurking in the closet—is the movie’s best. That was creepy. Alas, it was all downhill from there.

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