Review: Childhood fears of monsters that lurk in wardrobes or underneath beds are gleefully realised in director Rob Savage’s horror thriller based on Stephen King’s short story, which appeared in the 1978 collection Night Shift along with The Lawnmower Man, Children Of The Corn and Sometimes They Come Back. Conjured using digital effects trickery, the titular antagonist of The Boogeyman is a hissing predator with two gleaming eyes that glisten in the dark, handily giving away the monster’s location shortly before an attack on a terrified victim including one screaming infant in a crib that meets a grisly demise in the film’s unsettling prologue.
Savage orchestrates set pieces in gloom or total darkness, stoking tension with unreliable light sources such as candles, a cigarette lighter or the torch of a mobile phone which are easily extinguished or only illuminate the path ahead (providing plentiful opportunities for a voracious beast to creep up behind actors). Aside from a couple of jump scares, Savage’s picture is mildly unsettling for the duration and abides by familiar genre rules. Screenwriters Scott Beck, Bryan Woods and Mark Heyman deviate from King’s short story in one crucial aspect to leave a creaky wardrobe ajar for potential sequels.
Therapist Will Harper (Chris Messina) is incapable of processing the death of his wife in a car accident and he neglects to provide daughters Sadie (Sophie Thatcher) and Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair) with the emotional support they need to cope with their devastating loss. Instead, he relies on colleague Dr Weller (LisaGay Hamilton) to salve the girls’ wounds and help youngest child Sawyer confront her crippling fear of the dark. A grief-stricken stranger called Lester Billings (David Dastmalchian) turns up unannounced at the family home, where Will practises, in desperate need of professional help.
The therapist reluctantly allows the new patient to verbalise a family history steeped in tragedy and Will stares dumbfounded at a child’s drawing of an otherworldly creature, which Lester claims murdered his brood. “It’s the thing that comes for your kids when you’re not paying attention,” warns Lester. The session ends abruptly and soon after, Sawyer claims there is something unearthly in her bedroom, heralding the emergence of a terrifying entity that feeds on human suffering and stalks children while disbelieving parents’ backs are turned.
The Boogeyman won’t be causing any sleepless nights for audiences who are well versed in the psychological warfare of things that go bump in the night. Savage’s film is a solid and quietly efficient horror thriller that espouses family unity in adversity, spearheaded by proactive female characters. Australian horror The Babadook ventured into similar territory in 2014 and was more inventive and chilling than this mildly disconcerting nightmare. Leave a light on.
Find The Boogeyman in the cinemas
Review: We all want to live the life we wish we had. So professes a conflicted character in the plot-rich and visually stunning sequel to the “pretty hardcore origin story” Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, which won the 2019 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film. Directed at a breathless pace by Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers and Justin K Thompson, Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse is a dizzying tumble through Marvel Comics storylines that interlace the tragic fates of more than 100 iterations of a web-slinging hero who we have predominantly known as Peter Parker until now.
Like its predecessor, the sequel champions diversity and inclusion with a rapidly expanding menagerie of anthropomorphic spider-folks of every conceivable shape, size and composition. In-jokes abound as scriptwriters Phil Lord, Christopher Miller and Dave Callaham barely touch narrative brakes during the frenetic opening salvo of a two-part escapade that concludes in summer 2024 when Spider-Man: Beyond The Spider-Verse swings into cinemas. Groundwork laid here is rock solid and an audacious 140-minute running time feels just right, building to a dramatic crescendo amplified by composer Daniel Pemberton’s energetic score that truly whets appetites for an apocalyptic showdown akin to Avengers: Endgame.
On Earth-1610, Brooklyn teenager Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) struggles to disclose his web-slinging secret identity to parents Jefferson (Brian Tyree Henry) and Rio (Luna Lauren Velez). Escalating tension between family members coincides with the emergence of a blundering villain called The Spot (Jason Schwartzman), who will play a pivotal role in the battle between good and evil in parallel realities.
Meanwhile, on Earth-65, Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) continues to hide her heroic alter ego from father George (Shea Whigham), a captain in the New York Police Department who believes Ghost Spider is responsible for the death of Gwen’s bullied classmate Peter Parker. During a battle with an airborne villain, Gwen learns about the existence of the Spider Society led by Miguel O’Hara (Oscar Isaac), which is devoted to healing rifts in the Spider-Verse. Gwen enrols with this band of misfits, including pregnant motorcyclist Jessica Drew (Issa Rae), Hobie aka Spider-Punk (Daniel Kaluuya) and Peter B Parker (Jake Johnson), to neutralise the threat posed by a dimension-hopping menace and potentially reunite with Miles.
Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse builds confidently on stylistic flourishes and visual palettes of the first film, using on-screen cues to distinguish each dimension and its colourful denizens. Comic book traditions are lovingly retained, like when Hobie remarks, “I ain’t got a Scooby Doo”, and an on-screen boxed caption defines the Cockney slang for clue. Snappy dialogue laden with one-liners and moving vocal performances, particularly from Moore and Steinfeld, leave our Spider-sense tingling with unfettered delight. Dos Santos, Powers and Thompson exercise their collective power with great responsibility.
Find Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse in the cinemas