Well it’s January, which means we’re bound to get at least one lackluster horror flick that wasn’t good enough for an October release. And wouldn’t you know it, The Bye Bye Man perfectly fits the bill. This film is so bland, so cliché, and so unnecessary that it’s not even really worth reviewing. Honestly, this is one of those movies that we could sweep under the rug and nobody would ever notice. Since I’m obligated to give a thorough critique, though, let’s just get this over with and hope something better’s waiting around the corner.
Well it’s January, which means we’re bound to get at least one lackluster horror flick that wasn’t good enough for an October release. And wouldn’t you know it, The Bye Bye Man perfectly fits the bill.
Douglas Smith stars as Elliot, a college student who moves in with his best friend (Lucien Laviscount) and girlfriend (Cressida Bonas). While exploring the old house, Elliot stumbles upon a dresser with the name, “Bye Bye Man,” etched into the wood. After Elliot says this name to his friends, a mysterious boogeyman starts haunting them. They begin to lose touch with reality, although that still doesn’t excuse some of the insanely idiotic things they do. Just to give you an idea of how stupid these characters are, they perform a séance, wander around a dark basement, drive without watching the road, and practically walk into every deathtrap.
Part of what makes The Bye Bye Man so frustrating is that it actually had some potential. For starters, Doug Jones plays the titular boogeyman. Usually hidden under layers of makeup, the often unrecognizable Jones has done great work in the Hellboy movies and Pan’s Labyrinth. Although he’s well suited for this role, the Bye Bye Man sadly has an underwhelming design that leaves no impression. He looks like a rejected Gentleman from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Equally underwhelming is the Bye Bye Man’s poorly generated hellhound, who further proves that CGI just isn’t as scary as practical effects.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Bye Bye Man doesn’t actually kill people. Rather, he drives people to madness and causes them to murder each other. That’s an interesting premise that could’ve made for an intense psychological thriller. Unlike The Babadook, however, The Bye Bye Man doesn’t keep the audience guessing what’s real and what’s an illusion. We can see every plot point and jump scare from a mile away, as if the filmmakers aren’t even trying. And to think, this movie actually comes from two Academy Award nominees!
We can see every plot point and jump scare from a mile away, as if the filmmakers aren’t even trying.
Director Stacy Title and screenwriter Jonathan Penner are not only husband and wife, but also received Oscar recognition for their short film in 1994. Now over two decades later, they’ve turned in a feature film so awkward that M. Night Shyamalan would laugh. The performances are just as effortless, ranging from below average to horrendous. The most inexplicable screen presence of all is Carrie-Anne Moss as a police detective. Every time she says a line, you can tell Moss is thinking to herself, “I was in The Matrix for crying out loud! How did I stoop so low?”
It all amounts to one of the most half-assed endings in a long time. Without giving too much away, the film builds us up for a last minute twist, but instead just kind of ends. It’s like everybody wanted to get home as quickly as possible and called it a day. On one hand, this is flat-out lazy. On the other hand, it got us to the credits a lot faster, which ultimately feels like a blessing. In any case, you’ll immediately forget about The Bye Bye Man after exiting the theater. So don’t think his name, don’t say his name, and definitely don’t see his movie.