Jump Scare: The Movie! (2023)

Jump Scare: The Movie! (2023) Cover

The Boogeyman is an exhausting exercise in saturating as much of a film with jump scares as possible. While there are moments that try to give The Boogeyman meaning by attempting to connect it to themes of grief and trauma, the director's commitment to startle the viewer at every possible opportunity prevents you from feeling anything but anxiety. Despite a great deal of technical competency on display in the visual construction as well as the use of editing to maintain a sense of tension, the film feels at odds with itself and ends up sacrificing all of its best parts for a few thrills.

While the Harper family attempts to move on after the loss of their mother, a traumatized man seeks help from their father, Will Harper, who is a therapist. During their first session, the traumatized man reveals that his family has been haunted and slowly killed one by one via the life-sucking force of an evasive Boogeyman. When Will leaves the patient alone for a moment because he has come to believe that they are dangerous, the patient wanders threateningly through the house until Will's oldest daughter, Sadie discovers him dead in their closet upstairs. This new trauma instigates the endless torment of the Harper family by an unstoppable and inexplicable menace that creeps from the closet in the middle of the night.

There are some interesting attempts to link the monster in the film to trauma and grief. We get some time with the family as they interact with each other as well as their friends, family, and therapist; and this does a lot to help try to prop the movie up. It just doesn't work very well because so many of these scenes are set against the backdrop of dark areas and stressful locations that threaten to pop a monster out at you. At the end of it all, it just never feels like the film has paid you back in any meaningful way for any of your investment.

I'm going to get a little spoilery here, so please feel free to skip ahead to the next paragraph. I don't generally like giving spoilers, but there's a scene that just really illustrates the issue with the whole film and I don't think it really undermines the core of the film since that core is all about the atmosphere and not so much about the ground that the atmosphere sits on. There's a part in the film where a character is going through the belongings of the dead mother. Exploring these artifacts should feel special and allow the audience to better connect to this character emotionally, but the whole scene is set in the basement in dim light and surrounded by shadows. At this moment, when you should be feeling the depth of grief at their loss, you can't appreciate any of it because you're constantly watching the shadows and waiting for the literal Boogeyman to jump out and ruin it. This is what really leaves me feeling a bit cheated because I was never allowed to feel any of the complexity of emotions that are clearly important.

What's really disappointing is that there is a lot of craftsmanship on display. The lighting throughout the movie is full of shadows but still manages to show off the action. We're regularly allowed to revel in bits of camera play as we look at points of light in the darkness or the play between the interesting lights and the creeping edges out of the corner of your eye. And a good jump scare is not easy to pull off. It requires a playful sense of when to have your music peak and how long to hold it before going off. Or how long to leave something concealed in order to leave the audience in a sense of expectation without allowing it to shift to boredom. The acting and music are both extremely solid even if neither is memorable or iconic.

If you just really love the type of movie that is good at startling you, this movie delivers on that and there is a lot here for you. This is a perfect film for getting your heart racing for an hour and a half, but there was a lot of opportunity here to be more than that. The Boogeyman could have delivered both, and it just didn't. It would have been better if it hadn't even tried to raise above that because it could have been a lot more fun, but by giving a glimpse of what could have been I just can't think of anything else and The Boogeyman lives in the shadow of the better film I imagine it might have been in the right hands.

Final Verdict:It satisfies the basic assignment of being startling for an hour and a half.