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‘The Boogeyman’: Everything We Know About the Spooky Stephen King Adaptation

Vivien Lyra Blair as Sawyer in The Boogeyman (2023)

2023 is rife with Stephen King adaptations and we’re here for it. The Master of Horror has worked on dozens of books that have spawned countless films, TV shows, and limited series, many of which have successfully spooked us at some point in our lives. The New England native, famous for setting most of his stories in Maine, has churned out classics like The Shining, Carrie, and Salems Lot, and is always more than happy to have his work adapted for the silver screen. One of the many King stories hitting the big screen this year is The Boogeyman.

The (short) story

The Boogeyman was first published in 1973 in Cavalier magazine before being included in Night Shift, one of King’s many anthologies. The story itself centers on a man named Lester Billings who is seeking therapy after the mysterious and ominous deaths of his first two children. Although the kids’ deaths were officially ruled as “crib deaths” and “convulsions,” Lester disagrees and is convinced that his children were murdered. According to him, each of his kids cried out “Boogeyman!” before being discovered dead. Another commonality: Lester swears that when he found his children, their closet doors were ajar despite him being positive they were shut before tucking his kids in the night they died. 

Later on, Lester and his wife have another child, a son whom they name Andy. After his birth, Lester and his wife decide to move far away from their first home and take extra precautions, like having Andy sleep with them in their bed. A year passes peacefully, and then Lester starts feeling that the monster has tracked them down again. 

The plot

The first official trailer appears to deviate a little from King’s short story, but looks promising nonetheless. Rather than focus on Lester, the film anchors its plot on a therapist named Will, so it’s probably safe to assume that the movie is going to focus on the therapist Lester seeks out to help him cope with the deaths of his children. Like Lester, Will is also grieving, but instead of the passing of his children, it’s because of the sudden death of his wife. He lives with his two daughters, Sadie and Sawyer, and unfortunately has a strained relationship with both of them.

Considering the fact that he’s one of the most adapted authors of all time, King is no stranger to giving notes on the films based on his stories. They vary from positive to somewhat disappointed, but don’t appear to be based on faithfulness to his source material. Take, for example, his review of 2007’s The Mist: “Frank [Darabont] wrote a new ending that I loved. It is the most shocking ending ever and there should be a law passed stating that anybody who reveals the last five minutes of this film should be hung from their neck until dead.” With that said, the deviation on this one will probably work for him, too. 

The trailer

The official synopsis for The Boogeyman reads as follows: “High school student Sadie Harper and her younger sister Sawyer are reeling from the recent death of their mother and aren’t getting much support from their father, Will, a therapist who is dealing with his own pain. When a desperate patient unexpectedly shows up at their home seeking help, he leaves behind a terrifying supernatural entity that preys on families and feeds on the suffering of its victims.”

In the trailer, we watch Will tuck Sawyer in and assure her that there are no monsters in her room—going so far as to show her that the closet is empty. Still, Sawyer insists on sleeping with a large, round night light next to her. Throughout the teaser, we watch as a malevolent presence looms over Will and his family. Later, we catch a brief glimpse of Rita and Lester warning Will about the Boogeyman. 

The cast

Heading up the film’s cast as Will is Chris Messina, known for his roles in The Mindy Project, Birds of Prey, and Sharp Objects. Joining him are Sophie Thatcher (Yellowjackets) as Sadie and Vivien Lyra Blair (Bird Box) as Will’s younger daughter, Sawyer. Marin Ireland (The Umbrella Academy) makes a brief appearance in the film’s trailer as a character named Rita. Her exact role remains unclear, but in the short story, Lester’s wife is also named Rita, so we can probably assume that it’s the same person. Lester himself also makes an appearance and is played by David Dastmalchian (The Suicide Squad, Prisoners). In the trailer, Lester seems to be in a therapy session with Will, where he talks about the mysterious entity that takes children. 

The production

The Boogeyman has been adapted as a short film and even as a theatrical play in the past. Plans to adapt it for the big screen have been in motion since 2018 when it was reported that screenwriters Scott Beck and Bryan Woods (A Quiet Place) became attached to the project. They were later joined by Black Swan’s Mark Heyman. Sitting in the director’s chair is Rob Savage, best known for the low-budget hit Host

The film was reportedly planned as a Hulu exclusive before 20th Century Studios changed its tune in January of 2023 and decided to give it a theatrical release. Apparently, the movie did so well in test screenings that it was agreed that maybe streaming wasn’t the way to go. 

Now we’re definitely excited. 

The release date

The Boogeyman is set to hit theaters on June 2, 2023. It is one of the many Stephen King adaptations we are expected to see in cinemas this year. King’s cult classic second novel Salem’s Lot is also slated for an all-new remake sometime this year, along with a prequel to 2019’s Pet Sematary

(featured image: 20th Century Studios)

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Danielle is a twenty-something writer and postgrad student based in the Philippines. She loves books, movies, her cat, and traveling. In her spare time, she enjoys shooting 35mm film and going to concerts.