THE BYE BYE MAN
Director: Stacy Title
Cast: Douglas Smith, Lucien Laviscount, Cressida Bonas, Michael Trucco, Jenna Kanell, Erica Tremblay, Marisa Echeverria, Cleo King, Carrie-Anne Moss, Faye Dunaway, Leigh Whannell, Doug Jones
MPAA Rating: (for terror, horror violence, bloody images, sexual content, thematic elements, partial nudity, some language and teen drinking)
Running Time: 1:36
Release Date: 1/13/17
Review by Mark Dujsik | January 12, 2017
The idea of the eponymous baddie in The Bye Bye Man is more frightening than anything the movie offers us, because the villain is simply an idea. It's the persistent thought of the Bye Bye Man that sticks in the minds of its victims, until they are driven mad. Lest we forget this fact while watching the movie, screenwriter Jonathan Penner has multiple characters repeat the supernatural killer's hook. There are a few characters who are introduced solely to dole out exposition that we already know, and that includes a character who shows up just before the story's climax. For all of the talk about not talking or even thinking about the Bye Bye Man, it seems to be the only topic these characters can discuss.
It's easy to suspect that this entity is a metaphor for something. That, though, might the result of an idle mind grasping for anything of interest when presented with something like this.
Actually, one might suspect a lot of things while watching this movie. For example, there's the suspicion that none of the actors actually auditioned for it, since the performances are almost uniformly bad. There's the suspicion that Penner (adapting a short story by Robert Damon Schneck) and director Stacy Title are simply assembling ideas and images that they have seen in other horror movies, hoping that we have been so inundated with certain clichés that we'll just look at this as another, regular-old horror movie—not the on-the-cheap job that it obviously is. Needless to say, there's the constant, nagging suspicion that one's time could have been better spent in an assortment of other ways.
College students Elliot (Douglas Smith), his girlfriend Sasha (Cressida Bonas), and his best friend John (Lucien Laviscount) have moved into a house off campus. The house is furnished, and one item of furniture presents a bit of a problem. A gold coin keeps falling out of the nightstand in Elliot and Sasha's bedroom. While examining the table, Elliot finds some writing on the inside of a drawer: The phrases "Don't say it," and "Don't think it," scrawled in a circle. Tearing off the drawer's liner, he finds a name scratched into the wood: the Bye Bye Man.
The demon-monster thing's hook is that saying its name aloud puts the thing into your mind, until it drives you insane. Be prepared to hear a character speak some variation of this about every five to ten minutes.
The Bye Bye Man is a pale white figure (played by Doug Jones) with a face covered in scars and covered by the hood of a black cloak. He likes to show up out of nowhere, only to posture and point at the person who sees him. He's not that scary, since he looks like the textbook definition of generic horror-movie villain, and his pet, a hellhound that eats the faces of his indirect victims, is a computer-generated character that would have looked cheap 15 years ago.
The Bye Bye Man is not the point, though. The movie's supposed scariness comes from the way these characters' perceptions are altered by their deteriorating mental state. Again, the concept is scarier than the execution, because the actors either overplay their roles, seem bored with the material, or come across as reciting their lines from an off-screen prompter. The few who escape this fate include Carrie-Anne Moss as a hardnosed detective (whose lines might as well have come from a screenwriting template for hardnosed detectives) and Faye Dunaway, who appears briefly—to spout even more redundant background information, naturally—as the widow of a man who was driven to mass murder by the Bye Bye Man almost 50 years ago (The prologue is cruelly effective, and even that is ruined by the constant call-backs to it).
Title has no sense of the rhythm of material like this, so the attempts at frights happen without much or any context (Basic staging is a significant problem here: In one scene, four actors are talking, and each one is shot in complete isolation, meaning we're spending more time determining who's responding to whom instead of listening to them). Needless to say, the attempts at scares are basic: doors slamming shut, weird noises, an occasional burst of violence, and the malevolent being popping up out of nowhere. The Bye Bye Man is basically a battle between the familiar and the incompetent. We lose.
Copyright © 2017 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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