While many horror movies are saddled with two-dimensional characters, the biggest strength of “The Boogeyman” is centering the story around a family that genuinely seems to love each other, which ratchets up the tension. The film’s cast had a unique path to finding the chemistry before the cameras even rolled, taking two weeks to act as a family in real life to deepen their bonds.
“Mindy Project” alum and “Air” scene-stealer Chris Messina stars as Will Harper, a widowed dad who, despite being a therapist, can’t communicate with his daughters about the pain they’re all feeling. Messina said he was able to get in the right zone with “Yellowjackets” star Sophie Thatcher, who played his teen daughter Sadie, and Vivien Lyra Blair, who played the younger Sawyer, because of their family outings.
“We had about two weeks of a rehearsal process, which is not usual,” he said. “It was really me and my daughters going to the aquarium, or we went bowling, or we had a bunch of pizza and hung out. By the time we got the set, we really liked each other. We really trusted each other. Therefore, we were a family.”
Director Rob Savage said the immersive process encouraged the actors to have a lot of playfulness on set, despite the often heavy subject matter.
“I wanted to feel like the actors could bring their own ideas and we could shoot a version that’s just as scripted, but then also do alt takes,” Savage said. “I knew we would only get useful material there if they were familiar with each other and comfortable enough to try stuff out and and not be afraid to look like idiots in front of each other. So I purposely chose day trips where they had to look like idiots in front of each other.”
Ultimately, Thatcher said the movie would fizzle out if there wasn’t the proper chemistry between the leads.
“The family has to feel real or you don’t believe the movie at all,” she said. “So that was really important to build.”