College is a time of experimentation. A time to spread wings and test limits. You are in between childhood and adulthood. You can vote, go off to war, own property, legally drink alcohol (if you’re old enough, illegally otherwise), find your true love and get your heart broken…several times. It can be a wondrous, clarifying and confusing time. And if you’re not careful it can also be when you get an evil entity attached to you that leads to the deaths of everyone around you. They don’t mention that in the university catalogs.
Elliot, Sasha and John (Douglas Smith, Cressida Bonas and Lucien Laviscount) are college buddies looking to get out of the dorms and live off campus. Elliot and Sasha are dating and John has been his best friend since they were children. They look at an old house for rent that Sasha finds creepy but Elliot and John think is perfect. After moving in and getting all the furniture out of the basement, Elliot finds a large coin on the floor near a night table. When he puts the coin back in the drawer it immediately hits the floor again. When he takes the drawer out of the table to look for holes he finds writing on the paper covering the bottom that says “Don’t Think It. Don’t Say It” over and over again. Pulling the paper out of the drawer he sees words scratched into the bottom that read “The Bye Bye Man.” Thinking nothing of it, he goes downstairs. Sasha’s friend Kim (Jenna Kanell) claims to be sensitive to the spirit world and the four have a séance. Kim says something dark is coming and Elliot says “The Bye Bye Man” causing the candle in the middle of the table to go out and Kim to fall to the floor. That night, Elliot sees images in the dark and hears strange scratching noises. He also begins to suspect John and Sasha are having an affair behind his back. John starts to become more aggressive and Sasha gets sick. With all the strange things going on Elliot decides to investigate what the Bye Bye Man is and what he discovers will change the course of everyone’s life.
While “The Bye Bye Man” sounds like an interesting concept for a film (say the bad guy’s name and he invades your thoughts, making you lose your mind and become a killer) the way it is pulled off takes any promise of scares and grinds them under the heel of a poorly written script, bad acting and a villain limited in just how evil he can be by pure numbers.
If you give any horror movie much thought there is a theoretical limit as to how much damage an evil creature can do. That is made blatantly apparent in “The Bye Bye Man.” The only way his evil can spread is if you hear or say his name and with one possible exception the only people killed in the film are those that said or heard the name. That means if everyone that says the name is killed or kills themselves the Bye Bye Man has no power as he feeds off the fears of the infected. At the beginning of the film we see he hasn’t been active since 1969 for that very reason. It’s the same numerical flaw that affects vampire movies: If everyone is turned into a vampire from whom do the vampires feed? If the entire world is infected by the Bye Bye Man and they all kill each other off then he has no fears on which to feed. The character of the Bye Bye Man is a victim of his own effectiveness and a poorly thought out design.
That could be forgiven if the rest of the movie wasn’t such a train wreck. All the actors, including in small roles Carrie-Anne Moss and the legendary Faye Dunaway, appear to be flailing away without a real clue of how they are supposed to behave. Cressida Bonas is particularly painful to watch as she looks like she was plucked from a recent high school production of “Our Town.” Even her fake cough is poorly done. The only person who does a decent job is Doug Jones in the title role. Wearing what looks like a couple of pounds of plastic on his face, Jones is menacing in his limited screen time including providing the only decent scare of the entire film that happens fairly early on. He has no lines which makes him the most fortunate of all the actors.
The script written by three-time “Survivor” contestant Jonathon Penner is clunky and filled with far too much exposition and not enough scares. A past appearance of the Bye Bye Man gets rehashed throughout the film as we see bits and pieces of his prior mayhem. No one says anything in the film that I believe would ever come out of the mouths of real people.
The whole film looks amateurish like it was made as a favor and was never planned as a wide release. There is some particularly bad CGI of a burning house near the conclusion of the film as well as a very cheap looking CGI demon dog. It feels like no one was quite sure what they were doing while making the movie and this is the result.
“The Bye Bye Man” is rated PG-13 for terror, horror violence, bloody images, teen drinking, partial nudity, thematic elements, sexual content and some language. I think putting “terror” in the list is a bit of an overstatement but there it is. We see a woman hit by a car causing a roll-over accident, several people are shot but only one could be considered the least bit gory and a few people are shown in pools of blood. We see a body dropped from the upstairs and land at the foot of the stairs. There’s a fantasy image of a badly beaten woman who has come back to life and is chasing a character. There’s a brief scene of a person who has been burned in a fire. There are two brief moments of sexuality with sounds coming through a door and an oddly shot scene near the end. There is no graphic nudity. Foul language is scattered and limited to the “s-word.”
While I’m not sure how, “The Bye Bye Man” looks like it will double its listed production budget of $7.4-million in its first weekend of release. The horror community must be desperate for something, anything to watch in theatres. It could have been more entertaining with a better thought out villain, a better script and better actors. In other words, if they had made a completely different movie with a totally different cast it might have been better. Since they didn’t we are stuck with this hairball of a movie. Don’t waste your time and never say hello to “The Bye Bye Man.”
“The Bye Bye Man” gets one guitar out of five.
It’s a busy week for new films and I’ll see and review at least one of the following:
20th Century Women—
The Resurrection of Gavin Stone—
XXX: The Return of Xander Cage—
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