Movie Review: ‘The Bye Bye Man’
It’s a hard world for a horror fan, supporting an often maligned genre that rarely gets its due. We have to suck it up through flops like The Forest in the hopes of a big payout like Hush or The Witch. And unfortunately, the latest offering, The Bye Bye Man, is not doing us any favors.
The mantra throughout the new horror flick – “Don’t think it. Don’t say it.” – is supposed to protect the chanter from inadvertently conjuring a bogeyman-esque monster, though one wonders if it isn’t out of sheer embarrassment for that ridiculous name.
The Bye Bye Man comes from Oscar-nominated director Stacy Title, and is based off of Robert Damon Schneck’s “The Bridge to Body Island,” a chapter from his book The President’s Vampire, which is arguably a more frightening and intriguing title.
It follows four college students who accidentally beckon a malevolent entity during an impromptu seance at a spooky, old house. Once the creature’s name is thought or spoken, it is drawn to its victim, whom it tortures with horrifying visions, twisting its grasp on reality until its eventual death.
The premise of the monster is frightening, like a less-involved “Bloody Mary” and kind of a take on Freddy Krueger, with the disfigurements and the impossibility of escape. Unfortunately, the actual monster doesn’t really stand up to its lore.
In the movie, “don’t think it. don’t say it” is not so much a warning as it is an order. Hysterical targets of the The Bye Bye Man literally turn to murder in an attempt to stop the spread of the monster. But the monster himself never quite lives up to the hype, and it’s hard to become frightened when characters try to keep a straight face speaking a name that sounds like it came right out of a plucky children’s book.
The creature is played by Doug Jones, an eerie talent known for the likes of Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy, etc. so don’t want to place the blame on him when it seems to fall more on production.
Title herself admitted that the editing of the film was a bit of a nightmare, particularly with the decision to drop from an R rating to a PG-13. The MPAA forced them to lose violence, a steamy sex scene, and “all of the blood.” The latter proved more of an issue than anticipated, when dramatic kills couldn’t register as such due to pure logic: Where was all the blood?
Further cuts left plot holes in the already tedious storyline. What was the importance of that train? Why were the people standing in front of it naked? Were the seemingly random gold coins some kind of an homage to No Country for Old Men?
A lack of character development makes later hallucinations even harder to follow, though theater response seemed to approve of at least one trippy confrontation. It’s an earnest effort from Douglas Smith, though the acting predominantly falls flat.
As a big horror fan, I really wanted to like this movie, despite its questionable name and lackluster big bad, but it was hard to even enjoy the movie’s jump scares when they were interrupted by the audience’s awkward laughter.
So, it turns out you shouldn’t think or talk about The Bye Bye Man… or see it. Unless we’re talking more of a down the line, Redbox, HBOGo on a lazy Sunday situation. Otherwise just cross your fingers and hope other entries in the genre this year are better, like maybe Split or the upcoming It reboot.
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