Rob Savage directed the scariest horror movie in years with lockdown smash Host, and now he’s making his studio debut with an adaptation of Stephen King’s The Boogeyman. Based on the horror writer’s short story of the same name, the movie follows two sisters dealing with grief and a monster lurking in the shadows.
The movie will soon arrive on the big screen, but the initial plan was for it to head straight to Hulu. According to Savage, this all changed when they screened a first cut to 350 punters in Orange County. He tells Total Film in our newest issue, featuring Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny on the cover, that the response was so great that the studio execs knew they’d be crazy not to unleash this beast into cinemas.
"It was incredible," grins Savage. "I think we knew from the first cut that we had something special, but I remember sitting there at the first test screening and we had animatics and stop-motion animation for the creature [because the VFX were not yet ready], and I was terrified, I didn’t want to screen it – I thought people would tear it to pieces. But you just felt that it was connecting with the audience from the first five minutes.
"The opening scene is pretty intense. The shuffling and popcorn rustling stopped and there was just silence. For the first 30 minutes I was in a state of pure terror that they were going to turn on the movie or tune out, but then I just realized that they were in. Every scare was landing, every joke was landing, every character beat was landing. It was just a joy to watch it with them then. We were having a collective experience."
But the biggest test was still to come. Stephen King had been supportive of the project from its inception – he’s a fan of Host and Dashcam, and when he read the script of The Boogeyman, he called it "terrific" – but showing him a cut is an aptly terrifying experience.
"When the movie tested so well, we decided it was time to get his input, so we rented out his favorite cinema in Maine," recalls Savage. "He knows what he doesn’t like and if we’d have fucked up his story, he’d have told us. But he sent a lovely almost-essay about how much he enjoyed the movie. And then the next day I wake up and there’s an email in my inbox from Steve King and he said he’s still thinking about the movie. He said a few more nice things and the nicest thing that he said was, 'They’d be fucking stupid to release this on streaming and not in cinemas.'"
You can also see an exclusive image from the new horror above, featuring Sophie Thatcher as Sadie.
The Boogeyman releases in cinemas on June 2. This is just a snippet of our interview in the new issue of Total Film magazine, which hits shelves (and digital newsstands) this Thursday, April 27. Check out the covers below:
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