Stephen King’s novels and short stories are ready-made material for horror genre filmmakers to adapt and send the viewers into a labyrinth of terror. Many of his works are very well known. The new movie The Boogeyman, directed by Rob Savage, is based on King’s 1973 short story of the same name. It tells the story of the Harper family, which suffers terribly after the death of the mother. The father, a psychiatrist by the name of Will Harper, while struggling to deal with his own grief, starts to focus too much on his work and not enough on his two young girls. The elder, Sadie, drifts apart from her friends at school, and the younger one, Sawyer, starts to get terrified in her room at night. All this has to do with a sick man who came to see Will at his house. The characters are rich in their inner lives, and even the bond between them and their mother is fully realized. She is not there with them, yet her presence is felt because of the performances. Let’s take a look at Will and how the death of his wife and then the visit of the ill man impacted his character:
Chris Messina As Will Harper
Slow-paced and having a withdrawn demeanor, Will Harper was not dealing with the death of his wife in the right way. Being a psychiatrist, you would think that he would know what to do, and yet he was getting dangerously close to being an absent father. Whatever little he did, it looked as if it was out of a sheer sense of duty. He had the therapy sessions as well, as he just couldn’t give it all up. He didn’t pay much attention to Sadie, as he must have thought that she was in high school and didn’t need his help. He had started to see glimpses of his wife in her, and he didn’t know how to process it. There was a sense of anger in him toward her. He was trying to be a good dad to Sawyer, showing his clients that he really cared about her. But his mind was preoccupied with his wife’s memories.
Even as a psychiatrist, it seemed he just wanted to tell famous aphorisms to his clients. He may have cared for them, wanting them to get better, but he didn’t have the willingness to pay more attention to them. So when a man named Lester Billings came to his doorstep, or rather, barged into his office, he was not too keen to help. Lester was in a lot of trouble. He had lost all three of his children, and people gossiped that he was the killer. The police couldn’t actually prove that he was the murderer, but Lester knew that only the first death occurred from natural causes. He showed Will a drawing that one of his kids had made describing the killer, and Will had enough of it. He called the police, but before they could come, Lester committed suicide at Will’s house.
Perhaps Lester had preplanned the whole thing, but he did try to warn Will, and yet he called the police. After this incident, the family should have had an intervention and woken up to the realities. Their mother had passed away, and a man had committed suicide, or so it seemed. As a father, Will could have assessed the situation better, but he himself was too disturbed. He rarely had any idea about what his kids were going through. Sawyer was having nightmares, and Sadie was looking after her when it should have been Will who should have looked after them both. He was insecure about fatherhood. He tried to hide it with his playful persona, but even that was getting tiring. That playful role only came out when his wife was mentioned. It was as if he thought he was competing with their mother and could never win. Sawyer’s baby teeth were falling off, and he should have taken care of them, but yet again, it was Sadie who fulfilled that role.
Lester had told him that his two daughters had been killed by someone who attacks children when no one is paying attention. Will wasn’t really paying attention to his family. When things worsened over time, Sawyer and Sadie got attacked by that someone. This someone was the most abominable and fierce creature that had been with mankind ever since its dawn. Billings’ widow called it The Boogeyman. It preyed on fearful kids who were not being looked after, and often they lived in dark spaces. When Sadie tried to tell Will about the creature, he didn’t believe her. He instead tried to pin it on Sadie’s drug use. Sadie had just had a whiff of weed while she was with friends, and he still believed it could have been a hallucination. He didn’t care to look at the horror in her eyes.
It was only when he himself got attacked by the creature that he understood what Sadie was talking about. He didn’t have much to do with defeating the creature. It was his brave young girls who succeeded in killing him. When he survived and recovered, he had to finally face his true fears. He admitted to the young girls that he was scared of fatherhood. He was impatient with the grieving process and just wanted to get rid of everything that reminded him of his wife, even in the slightest. He didn’t even bother to think about what this would do to his children’s psyche. Sadie even fought with him over this matter, and it was probably her mother’s strength that channeled itself through her so she could defeat the creature. Being the single father of two young girls created anxiety in him that he wasn’t facing. He had given all that burden to his wife, and when she died, he couldn’t come to terms with his own feelings. She was indeed the stronger one emotionally, but Will now realized that it was going to be him who would have to step up and take the responsibility of raising the two girls and pay close attention to their needs. Maybe the creature represented this inattention and neglect, and after his house got burned down in an attempt to destroy the creature, that’s when Will got the opportunity to have a fresh start. He has accepted his problems, and until he is there to care for his daughters with full commitment, the return of the creature seems highly unlikely.