Movie Review: Save your money for spring instead of seeing ‘The Bye Bye Man’
The problem with January’s film slate isn’t that almost every scheduled release is bad, it’s that almost every film released in January isn’t good. By that I mean the quality of nearly every movie exists within some nebulous twilight between bad and mediocre. The only reaction to a January movie once the closing credits start to role is to kind of shrug your shoulders, grab your coat and mumble, “Well, that wasn’t good.”
“The Bye Bye Man” isn’t good. It’s watchable and bearable in that way horror movies can be when they lazily rifle through the tropes of “The Nightmare on Elm Street” series. But “The Bye Bye Man” isn’t memorable, scary or even as fun as its goofy title and dopey premise suggest. Basically it’s doing what “The Forest” did last year and “The Woman in Black 2” did the year before: vamp for time until spring rolls around.
Douglas Smith, Lucien Laviscount and Cressida Bonas play three college chums who decide to move off campus into a spooky old house. The house, as it turns out, happens to be haunted by the titular Bye, Bye Man (Doug Jones).
Actually, at this point the Bye, Bye Man is only pre-haunting them by slowly shutting doors and leaving large coins around an antique nightstand. Through convoluted and ostensibly “spooky” means, the Bye, Bye Man is trying to get Smith (whose personality can be defined by the fact he enjoys wearing vintage indie rock T-shirts) to open the nightstand and read his dopey, goofball, baby name off the drawer. Eventually, after too many scenes where Smith bugs his eyes out and stares at a coat rack for way too long, he reads the Bye, Bye Man’s name aloud which causes a train whistle to sound and an unconvincing CGI dog monster – that, although never named, would have to be called the Bye, Bye Dog – to skulk around pointlessly.
Through clumsy exposition we learn that the Bye, Bye Man gets his power from people thinking about or saying his name. Inspired by the characters’ unimaginative, lily white fears, the Bye, Bye Man causes Smith and Bonas to hallucinate that their black roommate (Laviscount) alternately wants to have sex with them or is having sex with them.
Oddly, this racially charged element seems unintentional because it’s never really addressed or developed in any way. But then, nothing in “The Bye, Bye Man” is addressed or developed. It just numbly goes through its paces until its 96 minutes are up.
Long before they gave us “The Bye, Bye Man” director Stacy Title and screenwriter Jonathan Penner produced the somewhat inescapable pay-cable standard “The Last Supper.” Even though “The Last Supper” proved to be hit-or-miss and seemed to forget it was a comedy in its third act, the film was still a promising freshman effort.
“The Bye, Bye Man” — the third film together — seems to indicate that Title and Penner have simply stopped trying. Part of the blame is due to studio meddling. Shot back in 2015, “The Bye, Bye Man” was shelved and then recut for a PG-13 rating. This explains why in one scene a character doesn’t bleed when they receive a shotgun blast to the chest.
However, it doesn’t explain why characters constantly take unwarranted, insane leaps in logic; nor does it explain how someone is able to force themselves to stop thinking about something. Most importantly, it’s never explained why Faye Dunaway or even Carrie Ann Moss make cameos. Slapdash, muddled and horribly underwritten, “The Bye, Bye Man” serves as another great reason to stay home and just let your Seasonal Affective Disorder run its course until all of this horrible snow melts away for good.
Mike Sullivan is a movie reviewer for Weekender. Movie reviews appear weekly in Weekender.
‘The Bye Bye Man’
Starring: Douglas Smith, Cressida Bonas, Lucien Laviscount, Doug Jones, Carrie-Anne Moss, Faye Dunaway
Director: Stacy Title
Weekender Rating: WV
Length: 96 minutes