The Bye Bye Man
Review by Ray Schillaci
If only this movie was half as good as its marketing campaign. With shades of many boogeyman stories from Slender Man to Freddy Krueger, The Bye Bye Man suffers from more bark than bite, nonsensical MacGuffins, and some less than stellar acting. Not to say there is nothing for the die hard horror hound. Director Stacy Title does manage to elicit chills with a few choice set pieces, and she has talented people (Doug Jones, Carrie-Anne Moss, Faye Dunaway, and a very cool effects team) working with her. Unfortunately, a lackluster script and the curse placed on her to aim for a PG-13 hampers the project as a whole.
The events of the title character’s dreaded name come about in the 1960s. One deranged man goes on a shooting rampage. And here is one of the many problems with this sequence (and the movie itself) by no fault of the director. The shots are set up in a very stark way, and immediately we’re set for the impact. But it’s quelled by little theater acting and shotgun blasts that amount to people being tossed on impact, but no blood. The direction is far more professional than the acting or the effects at this point. The difference is almost laughable.
Then we’re immediately segued into the present. It’s jarring and confusing. We’re introduced to three stock characters. They could have been lifted from any other horror movie. Nothing really distinguishable about them, and the actors that inhabit these characters do little to have us relate to them.
Lucien Laviscount plays John, the jock with the killer bod. He’s also the best friend of our reluctant lead Eliot, Douglas Smith in a role that goes from subtle to overacting in a matter of minutes. It’s crazy, because sometimes the guy is good (especially the interrogation scene), and other times he’s batsh*t crazy over-the-top. Some may argue he is playing someone who is in the process of losing his mind, but there are more subtle ways to play that.
Then, there is Eliot’s girlfriend, Sasha, played by Cressida Bonas, an actress/model, who probably has a much more promising career as a model. She poses as the girlfriend, but don’t ask her to play sick or you’ll get the worse fake cough and sneeze that you’ve seen on film in a long time. I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt, and kept hoping she would get better, but the poor girl looked like she really struggled to emote.
These three friends move into an old place that’s furnished. Of course, not only is the house creepy, so is the furniture. As soon as they move in, strange things start happening; voices, sudden movements, doors shutting, old coins appear. Wait! That’s a new one. Old coins appear when the Bye Bye Man is near. The sound of an oncoming train can be heard close by even though the tracks a far away. This is all cool stuff. But, what does it all mean? Absolutely nothing. Just window dressing for a hand-me-down story to make it appear spooky.
No explanations. Now, the filmmakers may cop out and say they are leaving it up to our imaginations. That the mystery makes it scarier. NO, it does not. A mystery with some substance makes things scarier. Like the mystery of who was actually possessing Regan in The Exorcist. The subtleness in The VVitch, The Babadook, and It Follows is frightening. But just tossing weird crap out and saying to the audience – you figure it out – is a big let down.
The story goes on with a requisite party to eventually get our lead character to check out an end table with writing in the drawer – “Don’t say it. Don’t think it,” scrawled all over, and under the lining of the drawer in big letters, “THE BYE BYE MAN.” Of course, Eliot says it out loud, and our new Candy Man/Freddy Krueger with far less personality appears, wreaking havoc with people’s minds. Everyone who says his name must die. Not sure why. It’s never explained.
The much beloved Doug Jones plays the creepy hooded fellow. Unfortunately, Doug is reduced to posing (standing, smiling, pointing). Oh, he is also accompanied by a giant hound from hell which may be the coolest looking thing in the film. Props out to the movie magicians behind that pooch. But, once again we have no idea what the hound’s story is. Like The Bye Bye Man, there is a back story, that may be told at some point during the series of sequels planned.
The sum of it all is very similar to a chain letter, the video tape from The Ring or calling out for The Candyman. Say his name and you’re doomed to a mind melt until Bye Bye Man can get you to kill someone or have them pass his name along. Now, that may sound lame, but director Stacy Title gives it everything she’s got to breathe a foul life into it.
As mentioned before, an interrogation room scene is highly effective. She is also privy to some very morbid laughs, and she is to be commended for having fun with this new urban myth. One can only hope there is a better version out there, once it hits the home entertainment market. She, the writer and producer have suggested there is an R-rated version. This could garner more pluses to help us forget about all the minuses. For now, the best thing about The Bye Bye Man is its brilliant marketing…Don’t say it. Don’t think it. Otherwise, you may not want to sit through it.
Directed by: Stacy Title
Release Date: January 13, 2017
Run Time: 96 Minutes
Distributor: STX Entertainment