I was going to come home from the screening of The Bye Bye Man and write a scathing review. I was going to give it a quadruple F-. I was going to tear the film apart and bury the pieces.
But first I told my roommate about this terrible film. I let him know; I said: “Don’t go see this film called The Bye Bye Man…” As the words of the film’s title left my lips, though, I started hearing things. A coin dropping to the floor. Scratching on wood. The sound of my girlfriend having sex with my best friend.
I was going to write an F- review of The Bye Bye Man but…don’t pay money, don’t see it. Don’t Pay Money, Don’t See It. DON’T PAY MONEY, DON’T SEE IT!!
In 1969, a reporter (Leigh Whannell) goes on a murdering spree over a name that people in his neighborhood keep spreading around. “Don’t say it, don’t think it,” he mutters to himself as he paces around his suburban street with a shotgun, stalking people down and shooting them after they comically run away at half speed.
Flash forward to present day, three personality-devoid college students rent a seemingly mansion-sized house. The trio include a couple comprised of Sasha (Cressida Bonas), a character whose only character trait is that she has a boyfriend, and Elliot (Douglas Smith), a protagonist whose only character trait is that he is wholeheartedly in love with Sasha.
Early on in the film, Elliot reads some spiritual B.S. sounding something akin to “fate is like a coin flip in the decisions of our lives.” He seems vaguely interested in the vague spiritual mysticism. It is weird then when Sasha’s friend Kim (Jenna Kanell) comes over to do a “spiritual cleansing,” and Elliot can barely hide is smirking and eye-rolling.
This scene is the first bad sign in the film. When Kim is revealed to be a true spirit-channeling psychic (this ability never comes back into play once the scene has finished, just to be clear with what we’re dealing with here), the horror cliche seance becomes a farce, but it is a farce played with no irony.
The seance scene also is the first—certainly not the last—to make an unintentional joke out of the film’s refrain: “Don’t say it, don’t think it.”
Once you do start to “say it, think it,” the Bye Bye Man enters your life and…screws up your sex life? After they all say the name, the three young co-eds in the house start to feel sexual feelings for one in another via hallucinations.
This creates a fantasy love triangle that threatens to tear them apart. Elliot starts to suspect that his girlfriend is cheating on him with his best friend John (Lucien Laviscount). Kim also gets wrapped into the equation briefly, until hallucinatory maggots start falling out of her face and John deems her a grotesque human being (this imagery, too, never returns to the film).
As this all transpires, the Bye Bye Man sits idly by—idly being the operative word—while nothing tense happens for an hour and a half.
The Bye Bye Man is a parody horror film played straight. It is an unimaginative, un-creative, ill-defined-yet-still-bafflingly-cliche disaster of a film.
The movie is an incoherent mess. Unmotivated POV camera movements want to be Hitchcockian but are utterly meaningless when not attached to anything. One would think that a film shot seemingly entirely in wide angle would be interesting, but the novelty of the empty deep shots wears off quite fast. Flashback set design is ridiculously gaudy and stereotypical. Sound design is a mess of warbles and crackles that build to tiring jump scares.
And the jump scares themselves have no semblance of tension to them. All you can do is wait in emotionless anxiety to be startled with no genuine payoff or catharsis or suspense. This anxiety quickly resolves into a fidgety boredom as you realize that there will be nothing to gain from waiting for something scary, as it becomes clear that nothing of the sort will come.
This all is merely scratching the surface of the failure that is The Bye Bye Man. This is without mentioning the thankless acting performances. The inability of Bonas to deliver a line without it coming across silly, or the inability of any of the young actors to exude charisma. The misuse of Doug Jones’ talents on a pitiful CG character. And the final nail in the coffin of Faye Dunaway’s career.
The Bye Bye Man is somehow incoherent while also having a bare-thin story. The “rules” of this horror monster character makes absolutely no sense. Seemingly the reporter starts killing people in order to get rid of the people who are infected by the Bye Bye Man. But then another character in the present day storyline plans to do the same thing without having any knowledge of this reporter’s murder spree. So the Bye Bye Man makes you kill people? Or killing people is how you get rid of him? Knowing that the hallucinations are not real helps you combat the Bye Bye Man, but a character who ignores the reality of a hallucination is killed as a result. And the Bye Bye Man wants…what exactly?
In regard to the Bye Bye Man as a CG design, there is nothing in the film’s monster that is original or worth investing time in. Not only does his character do nothing worth sitting through the runtime for, but his design is lacking in substance as well.
Every scene in this film falls into one of two categories. Either the scene is utterly bland or it is hilariously ill-conceived. When the scenes come together, they create a bland, sometimes hilariously ill-conceived hodgepodge of screenwriting nonsense. The Bye Bye Man is lazy filmmaking at its most polished.
The Bye Bye Man: F
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)