One of my first encounters with the iconic Stephen King was through a collection of short stories from the 1978 novel "Night Shift." Within the terror-filled pages lies an assortment of King's early efforts, nightmare-inducing encounters with various creatures, terrible humans, and anomalies of nature. Many of these stories have been adapted for television, "Sometimes They Come Back," and film, "Children of the Corn" and "The Mangler." Director Rob Savage, who helmed the ingenious pandemic-influenced entity story "Host," tackles King's tale of Lester Billings and his encounter with a monster-in-the-closet with "The Boogeyman." 

"The Boogeyman" opens with a scary scene of old-school horror filmmaking; it proves that familiar tropes, when organized with the proper care and attention, can still induce terror and the fear of the dark. The film focuses on the Harper family, teenager Sadie (Sophie Thatcher), younger sister Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair), and their therapist father, Will (Chris Messina). The family is only a few months separated from tragedy, which has created rifts of emotional turmoil for everyone in the family. Will, who holds space for his clients in his home office, struggles to talk with his daughters about the feelings associated with the death of their mother, forcing them back into the school routine, which proves a terrible decision for Sadie, who is unprepared for interactions about her loss. 

After a strange interaction with one of Will's clients, Lester (David Dastmalchian), unexplainable things happen throughout the house, specifically with young Sawyer, who pleads with her older sister that there is a monster in her closet. Sadie soon encounters the evil force, which reveals a slender, blackened creature lurking in the darkness.

The atmosphere of "The Boogeyman" has a near-pitch-black frame with slivers of light from bedroom nightlights or, in a creative choice, a glowing moon that can be rolled down dark hallways for maximum fright effect. In the beginning moments, director Rob Savage composes a tight and terrifying horror show reminiscent of haunted house tales. During the early lingering spells of scare tactics, one that honors King's knack for putting children in peril, "The Boogeyman" composes a familiar story cleverly designed with well-executed scares. 

As the film moves into an analysis of a family in mourning and, ultimately, a monster story, the narrative struggles to find a purposeful mythology for its bumps in the dark. While the performances, especially from the young actors Sophie Thatcher and Vivien Lyra Blair, do an excellent job of adding complicated emotions to a story connected between fear and grief, the story seldom takes advantage of the opportunity to engage the rich characters. Instead, side characters like David Dastmalchian's eerie stranger or Marin Ireland's surprise appearance as a monster hunter ask the most interesting questions about their character's connection with the boogeyman. 

Stephen King, whose superior skill for composing atmosphere and utilizing emotion to influence the shared fears experienced by people, built a terrifying short story in the 1978 collection that lingers long after the book closes. While Rob Savage and team do an excellent job of creating tension and an ever-consuming anxiety of dark spaces, "The Boogeyman" struggles to find a balance between its haunted house vibe and creature feature structure, leaving a film with some exciting setups and set pieces but ultimately missing the deeper elements that made King's story so memorable these many years after reading.

Movie Score: 2.5 / 5