The fact that The Bye Bye Man ends with such a blatant tease for a potential sequel tells me two important things about the filmmaker: One, they have no idea how the film industry works, as they assume this terrible movie will somehow make enough money to warrant a follow up. Second, they do not fully comprehend just how terrible this first movie is. And let me assure you, no matter how many films continue to screen in movie theaters this year, The Bye Bye Man will be remembered amongst the worst films of 2017.
Which is disheartening, for this specific reason. Last year was a heralded beacon of light for the horror genre, with innovative features such as Lights Out, Hush, The Witch, Ouija: Origin of Evil, Don't Breathe and The Conjuring 2 helping to raise the bar on expectations from dedicated horror fans. It was a great time to be a horror fan, and we collectively turned the page on a new calendar year hoping that the momentum established in 2016 could carry over. Alas, The Bye Bye Man, our first official entry in the genre, limbos underneath that previously raised quality bar, smacking its metaphorical head repeatedly against the bar until all sense has been knocked out of it.
Where do I begin? My biggest problem is this. The concept behind The Bye Bye Man, and its supernatural monster, is riddled with a nonsensical hole. Anyone who speaks the name Bye Bye Man automatically summons the silent killer (played by Doug Jones), though the fiend relies on people repeatedly stating his name to sustain his reign. So, wouldn't killing off all of the people who speak his name stop his legacy from being spread? I could never get past that.
Bye Bye Man's current victims are limited to three bland college kids who move into an abandoned off-campus abode near their Wisconsin university. Elliot (Douglas Smith) and John (Lucien Laviscount), best friends since childhood, agree to split the rent with Elliot's current girlfriend, Sasha (Cressida Bonas), even though she's instantly creeped out by the house and is convinced something terrible happened there once. Elliot is the first person to accidentally speak the forbidden name of Candyman... er, Bye Bye Man. Though as the antagonist sinks his psychological hooks into the trio, he really does it by driving a wedge of suspicion into Elliot that Sasha and John might be having an affair.
The Bye Bye Man fails because it's rarely scary. Director Stacy Title may notch a jolt or two with a cheap slamming door, or glowing eyes that peer from a dark closet. But the movie is terribly staged and poorly edited. Literally, scenes don't match up, with action being cut off and having nothing in common with the next sequence. It's odd. Title aims for a period, suburban gothic motif, but The Bye Bye Man comes off as watered-down James Wan. It's mainly run-of-the-mill jump scares and predictable haunted-house shtick that brings absolutely nothing new to the genre.
Sometimes, when watching an unremarkable horror exercise such as this, you'll note a breakout performer who shows enough flash to suggest a career outside of this slasher shlock. Not here, as every performance is flat, and every line reading is dull. OK, wait. Actually, Faye Dunaway is in this movie. Yes, Faye Dunaway. And though she only has one scene (a throwaway moment that adds nothing to the story), her screen presence injects a needed rush of professionalism into this amateur-hour, direct-to-late-night-cable distraction. Please, God, don't let The Bye Bye Man turn out to be Dunaway's Welcome to Mooseport.
Even when the Bye Bye Man has been summoned, there's a way his victims can prolong their inevitable death. According to the idiotic rules of this film, they chant "don't think it, don't say it," repeatedly. That's supposed to ward off The Bye Bye Man. Let me add one more line to that stanza, as it pertains to the movie. Don't see it.
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