‘The Boogeyman’ cast and crew talk tapping into their own fears and strengths for the film

Sophie Thatcher as Sadie Harper in ‘The Boogeyman.’
Patti Perret / 20th Century Studios

Everyone as a kid feared The Boogeyman (thanks to Stephen King,) but now, those fears are brought to life thanks to director Rob Savage and the cast and crew of the new feature of the same name. 

‘The Boogeyman’ centers on the Harper family (made up of Chris Messina, Sophie Thatcher and Vivien Lyra Blair.) Will Harper (Messina) recently lost his wife and along with his two daughters, Sadie (Thatcher) and Sawyer (Lyra Blair), the family is struggling.

It’s when one of Will’s therapy patients, Lester (David Dastmalchian), comes to his home—where he happens to have his office—that a dark presence that once ripped through Lester’s family now has a hold on the vulnerable Harpers, and the true horror of this horror film begins. 

Chris Messina as Will Harper in ‘The Boogeyman.’20th Century Studios

“The design was about creating something that you could glimpse just in the shadows,” says Savage when asked at a global press conference about what went into creating the notorious Boogeyman for the screen. 

The director continued: “For most of the movie, we’re just allowing it to kind of fester in the audience’s head. And then, when you finally see the creature, we came up with this kind of weird, messed-up design; whereby the creature kind of reveals itself to have dimensions beyond what we see. So, there’s still kind of room for people’s own nightmares projected onto our creature. And yet, we’ve got this horrific design that our team came up with, which will hopefully create some new nightmares.”

It’s true the build-up for the film is intense. For the most part, the feature really plays on the imagination of it all and taps into the nightmares that some might have about what’s lurking in the dark. We even see the youngest daughter, Sawyer, in the film sleeping with an orb of light right by her side. But it’s the eldest daughter, Sadie, who really ends up going toe to toe the most with the monster—and that’s on top of her own grief and other teenaged angst.

“I feel like for horror, it’s just really important to build empathy for the character, or else you’re not gonna want to follow them on their journey, or nothing’s gonna feel earned. But I think for Sadie, just starting off with her, she’s in such a distinct stage of grieving and just dealing with that…[so it’s] making it feel real, and her relationship with her father feel tense and really complicated,” explains Thatcher. 

Sophie Thatcher as Sadie Harper (left) and Vivien Lyra Blair as Sawyer Harper in ‘The Boogeyman.’Patti Perret / 20th Century Studios

Those complications result in trouble with her friends (or friend really in that group), her family, and at school. Normal kid stuff. So, it’s easy to see vulnerability in Sadie like anyone would go through in their own lives. But every horror movie has its champion or hero, and most times, they are just as terrified and vulnerable as we would be in those situations. But there are traits that help them prevail. 

“I think Sadie is incredibly resilient and I think she’s smart,” continues Thatcher. “She’s resourceful. She’s young, but she’s also been fending for herself her entire life. She’s emotionally very mature. She’s present. Sadie’s a bad*ss.”

Vivien Lyra Blair had a similar sentiment when looking at her own struggles in ‘The Boogeymanas well. And mainly on how most of the adults in her life don’t seem to believe what she sees. 

“I think Sawyer is this really complex character because you start the movie seeing her as this little girl who’s terrified of the dark and is just a little bit of a scaredy cat, to be honest. And then, as you really get to see how her character grows, she’s going through so much, and no one believes her about it. And she has every right to be scared,” says Lyra Blair. 

Vivien Lyra Blair as Sawyer Harper in ‘The Boogeyman.’Patti Perret / 20th Century Studios

Like in most films of the genre, getting others to believe just what exactly is going on is par for the course. Those who are being haunted or hunted are rarely given an easy understanding. 

For Dastmalchian’s character, Lester, he’s grieving losing his kids to the Boogeyman, and although his character doesn’t exactly have much screen time, his impact drives the crux of the story for the Harpers. And that scared Dastmalchian himself. It was after a conversation with producer Dan Levine and Dan Cohen that he was able to take on the role.

“It’s terrifying stuff and it’s great. It’s such a thrill to get to be with people you trust and you can throw yourselves off a cliff and know that they’re there to catch you and that they’re gonna protect you. Lester suffered. There’s mental anguish and spiritual anguish that all these characters are going through,” he explains. 

“And to go to that place, just for thrills and chills, it’s not really worth it to me. I feel like there’s something deeper in this story that I think is why it’s connecting so intensely with people. And of course, you’re gonna get the crap scared out of you when you really care about people who have these incredible bonds that you can relate to—and who feel the fears that we can all relate to.”

The Boogeyman also earned the seal of approval from Stephen King himself. “He became a huge champion of it. And was, I think, a key force behind this becoming what is now a theatrical release, which wasn’t the original design,” explains producer Dan Cohen.

David Dastmalchian as Lester in ‘The Boogeyman.’20th Century Studios

Ultimately, the film plays on known childhood fears, but it was important for its release to not feel so ordinary.

“I think one thing that people don’t appreciate is that we improvised a lot. We played around with the script a lot. These guys are so much fun to play around with. Every day, we’d say: Well, this is the scene. How can we make the best version of this? How can we make this come to life?” finishes Savage.

“That was something we spoke about. How can we make this not just feel like another horror movie with a horror movie family? We want this to feel authentic. Some of the best, funniest, most heartbreaking lines and moments in this movie [the cast] improvised in the moment, or we were making notes on the script as we were playing around with it. That’s why the movie has so much life in it… Because of these guys.”

The Boogeyman is now showing in theaters.