Sadie and Sawyer Harper have just lost their mother. Their father, Will, is a psychologist, but struggles to comfort his daughters. Taking advantage of the vulnerability of the family, the Boogeyman settles in the dark corners of the house.

The absence of light is the basis of many horror films. Despicable creatures too. Inspired by a short story by Stephen King, The Boogeyman relies on these two elements to scare us. The result does not particularly give goosebumps. In fact, it depends on the degree of terror sought.

The protagonists are a 16-year-old girl and her 10-year-old sister. While other directors haven’t been shy about bullying teens and children, Rob Savage (Host, Dashcam) is pretty lenient. The Boogeyman manages to torment the youngest, Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair), but before it was haunted, she was already sleeping with a glowing ball in her arms. Let’s just say it didn’t take much to wake her up at night. His older sister, Sadie (Sophie Thatcher), is obviously not reassured by the presence of a monster in the house, but does not really fear it. In short, if the characters are barely scared, they are unlikely to feel fear in their seat.

The director takes too long to reveal the Boogeyman. The shots of dark corridors and half-open cupboard doors follow one another in order to build up a tension that never ends. Waiting for the startle is part of the frightening process, but it has to happen eventually.

When we finally see the Boogeyman, we are disappointed by its generic appearance.

Even more disappointing is the trap set for him by a mother who wants to avenge her family. It is better not to dwell too much on this part of the story.

The most interesting aspect of the film lies in what could explain why he took up residence with the Harpers. Bereaved and fragmented, the family is easy prey. Each of its members reacts differently to the departure of the mother from the hearth, which affects their relationship with the monster. 65 and A Quiet Place writers Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, along with screenwriter Mark Heyman (Black Swan) managed to create a believable family dynamic.

Sophie Thatcher and Vivien Lyra Blair, seen respectively in the series Yellowjackets and Obi-Wan Kenobi, show great chemistry on screen. The accuracy and sincerity of their playing are unquestionably the strong points of the work. Chris Messina (Air, Live by Night) is convincing as a broken man who suppresses his pain so as not to live it. His character sometimes disappears for no reason, leaving his daughters alone in the huge house in which light switches are scarce. Or is he the monster? (It is not him.)