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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Boogeyman

I can't be the only one who thinks of the old Henry Hall novelty song when they hear the title of this story. You know the one I mean:

"Hush, hush, hush
Here comes the Boogeyman!"

That might take some of the horror out of things...until you're done reading it.

This short story, which, like every other story I've cast thus far, was collected in Night Shift, was the basis for one of the better-known Dollar Babies that arose in the early 80's. Jeff Schiro, who would later have a career mostly as an editor on some TV movies and documentaries, was the director, writer and editor for this one, and for a long while, possibly still today, it was commercially available, usually packaged with Frank Darabont's The Woman in the Room.

Since then, numerous short films have been made. I don't even know how many because a couple that I know exist don't show up on the IMDB. One of them even stars Game of Thrones actors Miltos Yerolemou and James Cosmo.

But a feature length theatrical film has never, at least as far as I know, been even talked about, and I don't understand why because much like I Am the Doorway, this would be very easy to stretch to feature length and would make a great film. I'm still having trouble believing that a feature film has been made out of The Mangler, but not this one.

Now, before I get started here, I'm going to make a confession. I am now using this blog as an excuse to read through literally every word King has written, in the order that it was initially published. Some of his stories I've never even read before (most of what he's written in the last decade, plus a few early works that escaped me). This will include many works that I'm skipping as far as blog posts. As I recently re-read several short stories that I won't be posting about, I thought I'd mention a few of the stories I'm skipping, and why.

Firstly, most of the ones I'm skipping are short enough that I don't know how they would work as a feature film. I included Night Surf despite feeling that way about it, as well, mainly because I thought it would make a nice companion piece to The Stand, as I mentioned, but none of these others have works they can be paired with, and thus, don't stand up on their own. A couple of them might make nice episodes of an anthology TV series, and in fact, two of them already have (The Fifth Quarter and Battleground, both adapted as episodes of the anthology series Nightmares and Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King). I really love The Fifth Quarter because of how it was written; those last few scenes had me genuinely on the edge of my seat. I haven't seen the episode based on it, but I can't imagine it was as spine-tingling as reading it was.

Second, a couple of these early stories were already made into feature-length films (Graveyard Shift and the aforementioned The Mangler) which were not generally well-received, but then, I personally find both stories to be somewhat silly and inconsequential themselves. Therefore, I don't see how one could make a decent film out of either, especially considering that in both cases, imagining the scenes as I read them were far scarier than watching the scenes play out in the movies, and they weren't even all that scary in the books.

Third, a lot of early King stories are just plain unfilmable. I don't see films ever being made, even as TV episodes, of Cain Rose Up, Here There Be Tygers (a truly odd short story with one of the weirdest unexplained euphemisms I've ever seen) or The Reaper's Image. Then there's some early short stories that are commercially available, but in a limited capacity, meaning I haven't read them. These include Jumper and Rush Call, both of which were written by a teenaged King, and also The Glass Floor, his first professionally published story, which, from what I have read about all of them, probably aren't high on the lists of stories ripe for adaptation.

This isn't to say that I would mind if someone tried to film them (I would love to see a filmed version of Suffer the Little Children, provided the appropriate budget is involved), just that I don't consider them apt fuel for this blog. So, past all that stuff, we move on to The Boogeyman.

This story would lend itself quite well to adaptation, considering that, much like I Am the Doorway, a good part of it is just a guy talking about his experiences with someone else. In this case, our "protagonist", for lack of a better word, is talking over what's been happening to him and his family with a psychiatrist. This means we have a nice framing story, but we can actually show the story he's telling the doctor, and add some much-needed detail.

See, our protagonist, Lester Billings, is a horrible man. As he talks to Dr. Harper, he seems at first to be genuinely remorseful about his children's death (that's not a spoiler; it's in the first few lines) but the more he talks, the more you can see what an utter shitbag he is. He has many openly sexist, racist, homophobic things to say, as well as ideas on parenting that were considered over the line even at the time this story was written. Without any apologetic tone whatsoever, he casually speaks of verbal and physical abuse he committed against his wife, and even children.

What's more, as he tells the story of how his children died, one begins to suspect that he's also more than a bit crazy, or at least, wants Dr. Harper to think he is. We keep shaking our heads saying "Dude, you killed your kids, not some imaginary monster!" But then there's a twist, one that I genuinely didn't see coming, and therefore will not spoil, that puts a new spin on it.

We'll need an unlikable lead actor for this, and my first thought was Joe Pantoliano or Steve Buscemi, but both of them are just too old at this point. The actor should be mid-forties at the oldest (Lester is 28 in the story, but looks much older). I came up with Peter Sarsgaard, because really, he's always got that slimy, untrustworthy vibe, even when he's playing characters you're supposed to like (which is probably why he's not usually cast as such).
His wife, Rita, isn't much of a character in the story since we only see her through Lester's eyes, but we'll need someone young, pretty and perhaps believable as a long-suffering, abused woman who maybe feels like she should leave her husband but can't (at least, not until the last straw). For a multitude of reasons that I'm not going into here (but you can probably guess), I'm casting Katie Holmes.
There aren't really any other main roles in the actual story aside from the Billings's kids, but as they're all very young, there's no point in casting them. This really is an ideal way to tell the story of the Billings' marriage. You can start with Lester as a younger man, perhaps being abused by his father as well, and his early childhood fears of the Boogeyman, and sew the seeds of the idea that perhaps even as a child he created an imaginary monster that committed all kinds of horrible acts so that he doesn't have to believe it was him doing it. Or...maybe the monster is real, but only Lester can see it. The film doesn't have to tell us immediately. After all, Lester will also serve as our narrator, and every scene we'll see comes from his point of view alone.

From there, we'll explore his relationship with Rita, meeting her, dating, having an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, marrying, having another kid, having an "accidental" kid, all while Lester grows more and more openly abusive. And then the Boogeyman starts coming for his kids.

Side note: Stories where kids are hurt or killed affect me on an extremely deep level. I have a really hard time with it. I'm a father myself. My oldest daughter is in college, my son is in high school and my youngest daughter just turned one. I can't read a story about kids getting hurt or killed without picturing it happening to my own kids. This makes me really hate Lester on a level that even other readers might not feel it on.

It won't make a very long movie, but that's probably a good thing. But there's a final role to be cast, one that cannot be left out; the kindly old shrink who hears Lester's tale, Dr. Harper.

For Harper, you want the opposite of Lester; someone the audience instinctively likes, instinctively trusts. Kinda like Morgan Freeman, except there's no way I'm wasting Morgan Freeman on a film this relatively low down in King's canon, so instead I'm gonna go with Albert Brooks. Come on, everybody likes Brooks! He's like everybody's favorite uncle.
As for a director, I'm gonna go with James Wan, because this film, which focuses on a marriage and what's going on with the kids, reminds me to some degree of his Insidious, and I also liked his Dead Silence. The guy knows how to create a mood. Another option includes Iain Softley, who showed he can do horror with The Skeleton Key.

So at this point I should probably warn you of an incoming slow-down in posts. I have four short stories to read, only two of which I think I'll be blogging about, then there's Carrie, which I've already said doesn't need a fourth adaption, but I'm reading anyway. After that is another short story which I'm undecided about whether a film adaptation would work, then 'Salem's Lot, which I'm happy to say will be the first of King's full-length novels I'll be blogging about. I'm excited about getting there, but it might take some time, since I'm re-reading everything before I blog about it. So far that's not been a problem as it's all been short stories, but when I read, I tend to try and think of actors to fit the roles as I'm reading, plus I try and visualize everything, rather than just reading what's on the page, so I read very, very slowly.

Still, I can guarantee that posts will come. One will likely be up in the next day or two, regardless. And this next one is one that I'm for whatever reason really excited about.

Next up: Gray Matter!

NOTICE OF SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION: If you like this blog, I'm gonna guess you're a horror fan. If that's the case, I urge you to have a gander at my other blog, consisting entirely of original short horror stories by yours truly. If you're a reader of online scary stories, some of them may already be familiar to you, as a couple of them have almost reached viral stage, but this is the blog that started it all: Please Help Me!


  1. James Wan directing this would be genius. I say this despite having only seen one Wan film, "Saw" -- but I somehow know he'd do a great job. Man, I really need to get caught up on his movies!

  2. I loved Dead Silence, but I keep hearing others slag it. I also think Insidious was fittingly scary.

  3. The Peter Sarsgaard idea: genius. And I'm generally in favor of casting Albert Brooks anywhere you can, because we see so little of him now. And I'm with you on the extreme sensitivity to child abuse/death. To the extent that I've avoided reading Cujo and Pet Sematary after becoming aware of certain plot points. And in Salem's Lot and The Stand, the small subplots with abused or otherwise suffering children really take a toll on me despite knowing it's fiction.

  4. The Peter Sarsgaard idea: genius. And I'm generally in favor of casting Albert Brooks anywhere you can, because we see so little of him now. And I'm with you on the extreme sensitivity to child abuse/death. To the extent that I've avoided reading Cujo and Pet Sematary after becoming aware of certain plot points. And in Salem's Lot and The Stand, the small subplots with abused or otherwise suffering children really take a toll on me despite knowing it's fiction.

    1. Thanks.

      Pet Sematary destroyed me emotionally the first time. And I'm going to do it to myself AGAIN. Oh dear.

      I have yet to read Cujo, and I'm getting quite close to it. Better have my tissues ready.