Round and round we go, as the world turns so does time tick and we’ve circled back round to January of 2017. January is the sick joke whose punchline does nothing but incite malady. Every year, studios finger through their production catalog and search for films that are completely underwhelming yet carry slightly above average production values, in hopes that these bags of excrement will dupe unsuspecting cinephiles and random movie goer’s into spending their hard earned cash on a title that is otherwise undeserving. Not to say this is an indictment on every film released in January, but essentially, this is an indictment on every film released in January. Say hello to The Bye Bye Man. What could be better than a horror film in January? Gaut, head colds, arthritis, vegan burgers, Michael Bay movies, and slipping on ice–to name a few things.
The Bye Bye Man follows an obnoxious college couple, Elliot (Douglas Smith) and Sasha (Cressida Bonas), as well as their third wheel of a bro, John (Lucien Laviscount) as they venture out on their own, leasing out an old abandoned victorian style house. A house which is somewhere between 2,000-3,000 square feet, with a huge lot and for all intents and purposes, resides nowhere near the generic university these hapless buddies seem to attend, but for the sake of horror those rationalities are neither here nor there. The home has a stockpile of creepy old furniture for the group to share, so no need to hit Pottery Barn, just use dead people’s stuff instead. Soon enough Elliot and Sasha find a night stand amongst the rubble. They dust it off and place right next to the creepy bed, in the creepy bedroom, in the creepy house. It’s just so creepy!
Elliot eventually, and with absolutely no contrivances, stumbles upon writing within the desk drawer that repeats the phrase “Don’t say it, Don’t think it” and underneath that are the words “The Bye Bye Man” etched into the wood (which becomes a massive plot hole later on). This leads to Elliot summoning a mysterious and morbid boogeyman that terrorizes the crew and anyone else who is subjected to his dubious title. With the kids all dealing with hallucinogenic nightmarish visions, manipulating them to commit unspeakable acts, Elliot races to find a cure to the disease that is The Bye Bye Man before the infection spreads and causes mass chaos. If this story sounds familiar, it’s basically a series of narrative points lifted from better, more intelligent films, hamfisted into one convoluted story filled with some of the worst possible cliches you will ever see, nay, be inflicted by.
The Bye Bye Man is a student film with a little Hollywood gloss smeared over the top. Nothing about this even approaches originality, and the performances are about as bland and stoic as they come. It seemed like they just tapped these kids from the background of a Degrassi episode and let them lead a movie. This is one of the dumbest stories filled with empty and contrite narrative conceits that are beyond confusing. The title character is a listless version of the grim reaper, that ultimately feels like a hampered collage of mainstream baddies. There is some Kreuger, some Bagul (Sinister), a some old fashioned Boogeyman, but the complete lack of a conceptualized vision complete with no backstory, reduce this character to nothing more than a shadow in the darkness. Doug Jones and the practical effects team do well to make this creature look the part, but without an origin that explains his motivations, The Bye Bye Man simply becomes inert.
There are so many things that weigh this film down, not the least of which being the never ending barrage of expository garbage that elicit far more questions than answers. All of the tertiary characters seem to be prophetic genius’s that have all of the answers to Elliot’s questions. Over and over the script paints itself into a corner and then just uses a supporting member to explain, without any subtlety, what is happening and how we can move the story forward. Director Stacey Title and the writer (Her husband) basically decided that their audience was too dimwitted to draw any of the correct conclusions, so everything has to be spoon fed to them. It’s just lazy, insultingly lazy and perfunctory filmmaking that is borderline offensive. From Elliot’s brother bringing his 7 year old daughter to a college house party, to Elliot finding the widow of the reporter featured at that beginning of the film (Faye Dunaway), who serves as another prophetic side character with the singular purpose of providing exposition and a segue into a pointless flashback sequence that doesn’t add anything to the story. It’s just one big slap in the audience’s face.
The Bye Bye Man is just a poorly constructed concept, with a patch job narrative that directly lifts plot points from other horror films. It doesn’t provide an ounce of entertainment. There is no dumb fun to be had here, it’s just dumb. There are some decent morals that could have been exploited if left in the hands of better filmmakers. The concept of how our words and ideas can mold our sensibilities and impact our lives–being the easiest to point out, but there doesn’t appear to be any interest in fleshing out any intelligible bits from this heap. Nope, just a series of inexplicable and poorly derived plot devices that garner no frights, and induce far more laughs than jumps. This is just a bad movie, through and through. Unapologetically bad, but hey, it’s January, what did you expect?
0.8/5 NOT COOL BRO