The Bye Bye Man – Review (2016)


The Bye Bye Man

Directed by Stacy Title

2016 in cinema began for me with a venture into “The Forest”, a tale of terror set in the suicide addled sea of trees that is Aokigahara, which was such an awful viewing experience I wanted to kill myself. A new year, a new fear and starting off with saying hello to “The Bye Bye Man” who while not as self-harm inducing as “The Forest” didn’t exactly make me feel as though tomorrow might be a better day. Still, while the former had me falling asleep, at least the latter did the courtesy of presenting such ham fisted acting, laughable dialogue and avalanche of genre clichés that no one will be voting it finest horror film of 2017 but “Best Unintentional Comedy” of the year – it’s practically a shoo-in.

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No expectation was made for a riveting story; the introduction starts off like most Blumhouse fare, a flashback to a late 60’s massacre that could have greatly improved its impact had there not be such a rush to get the Bye Bye ball rolling. As such, any suspense is quickly whisked away as we enter present day and three college students (protagonist Elliot, girlfriend Sasha and best friend John) take up in an old estate outside off campus. No time is wasted as the aftermath of a party with self-professed psychic Kim, who along with the help of some unholy furniture Elliot uncovers unleash the Bye Bye Man who infects, distorts and overtakes all whom that do abstain from saying his name or thinking about him. The movie really aims for a “Candyman” aesthetic here but falls flat as no matter how the mythology emerges, you really don’t understand who or what the Bye Bye Man is. The lack of knowledge can sometimes be a scarier premise but here, you just can’t be bothered to give a shit what his motives or reasoning are and even if one did, there is no sympathy or even an absence of it for a single character here. Their lives or deaths were insignificant when compared to the crime of how boring and stock they were, shortcomings only amplified by the hilarious and horrendous dialogue.

Faye Dunaway and Carrie Anne Moss barely qualify as starring roles or even cameos, it’s more akin to a “Win a Walk On Role In A Hollywood Picture…or a SyFy original which is what this should have been!” while the character of Mrs. Watkins (played by Cleo King) and (spoiler alert) her inevitable demise is one of the highlights, not for a stunning performance but because her exchanges and interactions with male lead Elliot are so bizarre that bring serious bouts of bellyaching laughter. A few other characters pepper into the cast but no one is memorable or interesting and the one or two who might be worth a closer look die off or disappear before you even have a chance to care. In the end, it’s all more stock than shock.

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Doug Jones, one of cinema’s greatest treasures is completely wasted here; not only because the titular villain doesn’t get enough screen time but Jones, when used effectively doesn’t even to hog the stage – his criminally underrated role in “Absentia” was miniscule in minutes but mighty in its magic. While the Bye Bye Man himself isn’t anything astonishing (nor is his broke ass Chatterbeast from “Hellraiser: Bloodline”) the talent is there to give it a real go but it’s doubtful that even Jones could find the motivation or material to take it to the next level, where actors of his caliber and class belong – not in the dump month slums this film drags you down to.

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The closest cinematic kin I could find to this film is late 00s Anchor Bay throwaway “The Alphabet Killer” starring Eliza Dushku which I saw at a festival a decade ago. Again, it’s difficult to recall anything of substance here but I remember laughing nearly non-stop (along with the audience) at the audacity of this picture to think it was anything good. The cast and crew playing it straight as an arrow but there was no target to pierce except the funny bone from how unbelievably ridiculous it was. “The Bye Bye Man” is cut from the same cheap cloth and the material woven from the thread that continually unravels the horror genre. How can one be even remotely scared by something that everyone involved in the project clearly is not? The idea behind “The Bye Bye Man”, trite as it is, could have at least jolted a couple jump scares out of viewers but can’t even rustle up a reaction because no one cares. Bye bye man, indeed.