Boogeyman, The (1982)


A King story in only 28 minutes?  Yes, please!

Main Cast: Michael Read

Director: Jeff Schiro

This is the reason I love YouTube.  When I learned in the late 1980s that there was a short film version of Stephen King’s NIGHT SHIFT story The Boogeyman, all I wanted was to see it, just once.  Being a huge horror fan and a huge King fan , and having seen all of the other movies based on his works, it was the missing piece of the puzzle.

But when you’re a 15-year-old kid in the Midwest in a small town before the Internet’s been invented, what are you gonna do?  So thank God for resources like YouTube where things like this can finally be seen.

THE BOOGEYMAN was the first of King’s famous Dollar Babies (he’s had a longstanding open deal where student filmmakers pay him a dollar and they get the rights to film one of his stories), filmed in 1982 by writer/director Jeff Schiro and starring Michael Read as the main character Lester Billings.  In the story, Lester’s children are dying.  Not all at once, but over the years each of his three children have died, and all three deaths have been ruled crib deaths.  But Lester knows the truth is that the Boogeyman has taken them.

The story is told from Lester’s point of view as he’s relating the events to his psychiatrist.  Michael Read shines in these moments as a paranoid, hyper-aware Billings, a man nearly at the end of his rope, whose mania is about to cause a nervous breakdown because he feels responsible for the deaths of his children even if he knows the real killer was the Boogeyman. 

His guilt stems from the fact that, after the second child died, Lester knew it was the Boogeyman who was killing his children, but when the third child began crying and becoming more fearful of being left alone in the dark, instead of sticking around to protect him, Lester fled in fear, desperate to save himself instead.  When he returned, the child was dead, just like the two before him.

The first time I read The Boogeyman, I was 13, on a drive down to Florida to spend a week visiting my aunt.  The story blew me away, both in its narrative voice and the twist ending which, at that age, I didn’t see coming.  But further reading, and seeing this movie, show me it’s more than just a twist at the end. The entire story is so well-plotted, it gives us a chance to further understand Lester’s character and gives a much deeper sense of the guilt he feels.

Schiro made a really decent short film given the 1980s technology and he couldn’t have been working with a very large budget.  I thought the film was too dark in some places, but that may have been intentional to further obscure what we’re allowed to see and what we have to leave up to our imaginations.  Certainly, the extensive use of shadows creates a much more foreboding atmosphere.

A subplot with a cop ultimately went nowhere and maybe it should have been deleted to let us focus solely on Lester’s story. But when those cuts come, they’re timed in a way that gives this short 28-minute film a much larger, more cinematic feel.

For what it was at the time of its creation, THE BOOGEYMAN is a pretty good movie.  It may be a bit simple for those unfamiliar with King’s work and will probably give naysayers more ammunition in their “Stephen King is a hack” argument, considering it is, in the end, just a movie about a man telling his psychiatrist that the boogeyman killed his children.  But for those folks are missing the nuances of this story, which, unfortunately, I don’t think the movie makes as clear as it could.  A few extra lines of dialogue would have made those subtle details stand out.

However, as a long time fan of the original short story, I like THE BOOGEYMAN.  It brings with it a lot of nostalgia and helps complete that Stephen King movie puzzle. You can watch it for free on YouTube.

King on Film

Carrie (1976)

‘Salem’s Lot (1979)

The Shining (1980)

The Dark Half (1993)

The Tommyknockers (1993)

Needful Things (1993)

The Stand (1994)

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995)

The Mangler (1995)

Dolores Claiborne (1995)

The Langoliers (1995)

Sometimes They Comes Back … Again (1996)

Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering (1996)

Thinner (1996)

The Shining (1997)

Ghosts (1997)

Chattery Teeth (1997)

The Revelations of ‘Becka Paulson (1997)

Trucks (1997)

The Night Flier (1997)

Chinga (1997)

Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror (1998)

Gerald’s Game (2017)

1922 (2017)

The Stand (2021)

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