How ‘The Boogeyman’ Director Rob Savage Pushed the PG-13 Rating with the Film’s Creature Design [Interview]


Up next from Host and Dashcam director Rob Savage is The Boogeyman, based on Stephen King’s 1973 short story, which is now playing in theaters this weekend. 

Savage spoke with Bloody Disgusting about making a studio film on the heels of two smaller-scale found footage horror features, while also discussing his lessons learned from those experiences, as well as his approach to designing a PG-13, boundary-testing creature.

“I’d never really thought of myself as being somebody who would direct found footage movies, and then I ended up doing two back-to-back,” Savage says of transitioning from Dashcam to The Boogeyman. “But it took a little bit of a jolt to get back into that mode of storytelling. I was amazed by how much I was able to take from working on Host and Dashcam and work into this movie. Both of those movies were totally improvised.”

Savage continues, “This movie I assumed would be much more rigid because it’s a studio movie and it’s a very different beast. Actually, there was a lot of room for improvisation and playing around with the scenes with the cast. So many of the best, funniest, most touching moments in this movie we came up with on the day, or the cast brought from personal experience. There was still a lot of room and a lot of shared DNA, more so than I would’ve thought.”

Director Rob Savage on the set of 20th Century Studios’ BOOGEYMAN. Photo Patti Perret. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Reserved.

If there’s one common throughline among all three Rob Savage-directed features thus far, it’s the filmmaker’s steadfast commitment to scare crafting. The answer from Savage was more complex when asked if that shared DNA helped when making The Boogeyman.

“The parts that I was really having to learn on the job, it was more towards the end of the movie, the action-horror beats,” he explains. “I’d never done anything with, I mean, I guess a bit in Dashcam, but again, it’s like found footage, so it’s a different beast. But that kind of more physical aspect of the creature, especially when it’s an entirely CG creation like our monster was. Wrestling with this thing. We had a 3D-printed creature head that I had on a stick, like a pantomime horse, and I’d be running at the actors screaming.

“I was shooting all the angles, and I’d storyboarded the whole thing, but it’s very hard to know if that’s going to come together until you see it with the creature. But the stuff that was useful was the first two-thirds of this movie; I looked at it more as a haunted house movie. I wanted to not see very much of this creature. I wanted you to feel very unsafe anytime there was darkness in the frame or a doorway, and a lot of that was playing in the same ballpark as Host. So, I felt like I’d done my homework there.”

Because the concept of the Boogeyman is so commonplace and nebulously defined, it created a challenge for Savage when it came to developing the film’s original creature design. 

He details, “I didn’t want to invalidate anyone’s idea of what the creature is because everyone’s got their own idea. The Boogeyman is really just this name that we give to whatever we imagine in the darkness as a kid. So, I wanted people to leave and still feel like they could project their own fears onto this creature. We wanted something that was very simple and striking. I also wanted it to be that you saw the creature at the end, obviously because the family’s got to face down this thing, but I wanted there to be an aspect to it that you didn’t quite understand or that hinted at this deeper mythology.

“We ended up pushing in this weird Lovecraftian body horror place that I’m still amazed we got away with in a PG-13 movie. But that was our attempt. It was our attempt to honor the story, which ends with some skin-peeling grizzlies; and hint at this cosmic horror beyond what we see on screen.”

Witness Savage’s cosmic horror in The Boogeyman, now playing in theaters.

The Boogeyman basement with glowing eyes poster

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