'The Boogeyman' Director on the Worst Thing to Do When Crafting a Jump Scare (2024)

The Boogeyman is scary for a multitude of reasons.

One, it’s scary because director Rob Savage and co. take the necessary time to establish characters and spark a connection between them and the audience. That way, when the scary stuff begins, you genuinely care what happens to them. Two, the movie is packed to the brim with extremely well-paced set pieces, ones that take their time building dread, and truly put you on the edge of your seat for an extended period of time before the big scare hits. Third? Savage is a master at crafting a good jump scare.

The Boogeyman is an adaptation of the Stephen King short story of the same name. This version puts the focus on the Harper family following a devastating loss. After their mother passes in an accident, Sadie (Sophie Thatcher), Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair), and their father Will (Chris Messina) must find a way to move forward. But, their heartbreak makes them a prime target for an evil entity that feeds off of human suffering — The Boogeyman.

'The Boogeyman' Director on the Worst Thing to Do When Crafting a Jump Scare (1)

With the film now playing in theaters nationwide, I got the chance to sit down with Savage for an extended interview about the making of the movie, and a good portion of the conversation focused on the art of crafting a jump scare.

The horror technique has a bit of a bad reputation courtesy of predictability, overuse, and the tendency to use it as an unearned trick to give a movie a quick and easy energy boost. However, when done right, jump scares can be highly effective story beats that leave a lasting impression — just like they do in The Boogeyman.

Given Savage’s great success when using that scare tactic, I asked him for one do and one do not when delivering a jump scare. He began with the do:

“I think crafting a good jump scare is about understanding what the audience is expecting from you. So, putting the audience in a situation where they feel like they know the roadmap of how you're gonna get there. The bad version would be somebody opening a mirror cupboard and then closing it and someone's behind them. It's amazing how much of an understanding audiences have of the language of horror. If you pan the camera away and then you pan it back, they're gonna expect someone to be there. Playing with a familiar rhythm and then playing the offbeat, going a bit too early or going a bit too late, or playing a scene in the daytime where the code of conduct says I'm safe in the daytime when these characters are sitting having a cup of tea and then suddenly there's a red demon behind [them], things like that. James Wan is amazing at doing this.”

'The Boogeyman' Director on the Worst Thing to Do When Crafting a Jump Scare (2)

James Wan is a pro at this, and so is Mike Flanagan. A personal favorite jump scare? The car scene in Episode 8 of The Haunting of Hill House. As someone who rarely has a noticeable reaction to these types of scenes (which you can clearly see at the end of my video interview with Savage), I was blown away by how that particular moment truly had me leap out of my seat.

Savage took a moment to pinpoint a wow-worthy jump scare as well, one that served as a template of sorts when developing strategies for executing scares in his own films:

“I don't know if it's my favorite, but the one that I remember just being really electrified by was the scene where she's watching TV in Conjuring 2. It's all like, look over here while you slap somebody around the back of the head with the other hand. It's all misdirection and the amount of places that the scare could emerge in that scene and then how he finally pays it off is just genius.”

'The Boogeyman' Director on the Worst Thing to Do When Crafting a Jump Scare (3)

So we’ve highlighted the good, but what about Savage’s jump scare no-no? Here’s what he went with:

“Don't do anything that's familiar. The worst thing, and this is the biggest testament to how great our producers were on this, don't try and turn something that wasn't designed as a jump scare into a jump scare. Somebody opening a door and entering a room really fast, don't put a big musical stamp on that and pretend it’s a jump scare because it will never work.”

Looking for more from Savage on the making of The Boogeyman? You can watch our full conversation in the video interview at the top of this article! And if you’re looking for more Boogeyman talk after that, be sure to check out my chat with Sophie Thatcher and Vivien Lyra Blair below:

  • Interviews
  • Horror
  • Movie

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'The Boogeyman' Director on the Worst Thing to Do When Crafting a Jump Scare (2024)
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