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The Bye Bye Man clumsily mashes together elements from better horror films, adding up to a derivative effort as short on originality as it is on narrative coherency or satisfying scares.
The Bye Bye Man clumsily mashes together elements from better horror films, adding up to a derivative effort as short on originality as it is on narrative coherency or satisfying scares.
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All Critics (80)
| Top Critics (17)
| Fresh (16)
| Rotten (64)
The script teems with horror clichés (scribbled drawings, a creepy kid, the skeptical protagonist looking up the demon's origins on a library computer), and everything from the acting to the makeup to the special effects is atrocious.
Maybe all will be explained in the sequel. If so, your writer is happy to remain uneducated.
It may be that I'm assessing on a curve because it's January. But if you miss the slasher icons of old and have little patience for the reboot attempts they get periodically, it's nice to see at least a worthy attempt to add to that pantheon.
To think that everyone here intended to make a movie this utterly lifeless and banal from the outset is infinitely more frightening than anything presented on screen.
It keeps you guessing, if only to find out, "uh, is that all there is?"
Despite any titular trepidation, there is fun to be had and even some cultural relevancy if you decide to say hi to The Bye Bye Man.
Otherwise, waving off the dullness of 'The Bye Bye Man' is the only satisfaction that warrants one's indifference to this piece of faceless slasher sludge.
Uses a lot of bells and whistles to appear to be something fresh and new, but is ultimately a bunch of ragged pieces from the genre thrown together into one all-too-familiar stew.
Perhaps if the film had spent more time learning about the villain himself, as opposed to seeing his effects on the three students, the story would have held the interest of viewers.
The Bye Bye Man is an uneven mixture of effective scares and ineffective filler.
The characters utter two sentences repeatedly in the film: "Don't think it. Don't say it." I've got one more to add: don't see it.
It's not that this is an awful film, it's just put together inadequately, and is highly unoriginal.
Look, not every movie can be a winner. I get that and I understand it. Unlike the philosophy some Americans would have you believe, there's nothing wrong with coming in second or third place. There really isn't. There isn't anything wrong with placing fourth either. There is a problem, however, if you're 150 out of 200 competitors. I mean, really, there's nothing wrong with that either, but there's nothing to be proud about either. Having said that, in most cases, if you're a professional athlete, then that lack of success might motivate you to work harder so that, next time out, you place higher and higher and higher. But, unfortunately, when applying this to horror movies, it just doesn't work. Once a movie has been released for an audience's consumption, there is nothing that you can do. I mean, technically speaking you can, with director's cut if, by any chance, the director wasn't satisfied with the cut that was released in theaters. But, really, you only really get director's cuts with major movies. I doubt The Bye Bye Man is gonna get a director's cut ever. Nothing is impossible in this world, but I'd be willing to put money on that. I don't know what, if anything, Stacy Title would have done with this movie. For all we know, she's satisfied with the end result, thought I find that highly unlikely. Also, she directed this movie based on a script written by her husband, so there's that. That's really irrelevant. But, let us move on, shall we? As if it wasn't obvious to you by now, I did not think that this was a very good movie, like at all. In fact, I'd have to say that this was very bad. If I'm being honest, and I always am, I only really ended up watching this on a whim. I was actually gonna watch Don't Knock Twice and when I searched for that movie on Amazon Prime, this one also came up. Both were available to me as a result of my Showtime week-long free trial. I saw this and I was like 'fuck it, I'll watch this'. Simple as a that. I really had no intentions of watching this (since the Edge of Seventeen is still on my watchlist and Cronenberg's Rabid, which I may watch tonight). It was just something I decided to do on an impulse. That impulse turned out to be dead wrong. DEAD WRONG I SAY! I will say that the movie starts out promisingly enough. Larry, played by Leigh Whannell, in 1969, shoots and kills eight of his friends, all of whom knew about the existence of the Bye Bye Man, before killing himself. He does this to contain the knowledge of the Bye Bye Man, who makes you see things that aren't there and, generally, drives you nuts, so no one else has to suffer through this. If everyone who knows about the Bye Bye Man is dead, he can't continue to haunt them. Anyway, this is information we get later on. The point I'm trying to make is that I felt that the movie starting with Larry murdering all these people was the right way to start this off. Of course, however, the PG-13 limitations put a bit of a damper on that since you can't really get a sense of how horrible these murders were. These people were shot with this shotgun at, relatively, close range. So the lack of blood was very inconsistent with wounds associated with shotguns. That lack of authenticity really hurt the movie. And it was laughable because, later on, you see more of Larry's murderous rampage and he shoots this teenage girl. She's slammed into the wall and she falls to the floor. Larry moves into the kitchen and you can see the wall the girl slammed into and there's, literally, the smallest blood splatter you will have ever seen. It's absurd. For fuck's sake, just take the R-rating and be more gruesome. At least it'd give us SOMETHING. Regardless, that's neither here nor there. Moving on almost 40 years later, these three teens (Elliot, his girlfriend Sasha and his best friend John) move into this house. I don't know if it's Larry's former house and, honestly, I don't really care. Anyway, they use Larry's nightstand. Elliot finds these coins in the nightstand and this writing. The writing says: don't think it, don't say it and a name. That name is, of course, Bye Bye Man. Because, really, if you're not trying to say a name, the next logical step is to write it down so, even if you're not saying it, you're thinking about it since you're seeing it. Great fucking logic there, my dude. Whatever. So this happens and then strange shit starts to happen to them and this psychic lady who was there when Elliot uttered its name. Yawn, am I right? First things first, this is a very derivative horror movie. It's like Freddy Krueger and Candyman wrapped into one, except not nearly as good or clever as those films. Secondly, the Bye Bye Man itself is, literally, one of the least scariest horror villains that I've ever seen. I had to be redundant there with the 'least scariest', because that's how ineffective he actually is. Like what is he even supposed to be, honestly? He wears this pajama robe with the hoodie on. And, underneath that, he's wearing clothes you would wear to sleep. Like sweats and a regular shirt. His face is disfigured. There is that, but the fact that his face is covered up for most of the movie means that he's the least threatening horror villain I've seen in ages. I mean the guy does have what seems to be a hellhound and that might be the only 'scary' thing about him. The first scene the hound appears in is actually decent. But once you get a more detailed look at him, the CG on the hound is laughably bad. Speaking of that, there's this transition from one scene to another where they show the wallpaper from the hallway, I'm assuming. The design of this wallpaper is of this deer and a doe. So the head of the doe slowly transitions to that of the hound who turns to look at the camera. Like, honestly, I don't know if this was intended to be this way, but this effect was so terrible. It was honestly just dreadful. If this was done in earnest, like who did the wife/husband duo think they were fooling. This can't have been planned as a legitimate scare because it's so openly awful. I mean, I'll be frank, it made me laugh. But it made me laugh because of how someone though that this might be a good idea. Oh no, the killer wallpaper. I should be SO afraid. Give me a fucking break. There's also this scene later in the movie, where the hound walks toward the camera and this hound is massive, but the steps he takes are so small that it's a bit of a dissonance, seeing something so menacing take such dainty steps. I suppose now we have to move on to Elliot, Sasha and John. I mean, do we really have to? I guess no review about this is complete without talking about these insufferable assholes. With the villain making you see things that aren't there or not letting you see things that ARE there, this leads to the inevitable love triangle. Or at least the villain manipulating Elliot's mind to see things that aren't there. And, honestly, I couldn't have cared less about these people to invest in this bullshit story. There's an incredibly awkwardly shot sex scene where John is giving it to Sasha doggy-style but the way the camera shoots them makes it look like they're not even in the same planet. This movie is so fucking bad, honestly. All of these are incredibly poorly-written characters. There's nothing to any of them. And Sasha, oh boy, it's time we talk about Sasha. She sets feminism back about 1000 years. She's completely fucking useless. She's either looking concerned, sick, coughing, crying or sleeping. Jesus, what a fucking weakling. Not to mention that she contributes nothing of value to the narrative. I mean, yea, she's the one that brings Kim (the psychic) to do a seance. But, other than that, the only thing she does is just take up valuable time and space. Well, really, maybe not valuable. She might be the most useless female character I've seen since Bella Swan. But, at the very least, as awful as those movies still are, Bella finally started fighting for herself and her weird, CG daughter. Sasha is even more useless than a damsel in distress, if such a thing is possible. Elliot and John are just unlikable assholes. Carrie Anne Moss, inexplicably, is in this movie. I imagine they cast her because they were probably planning for this to be so successful that they would get a sequel, so they needed to plant the seeds in this movie with her character to, possibly, continue on. The very notion that this movie would get a sequel is laughable to me. Also, Faye Dunaway is here. She needs that machine from Eternal Sunshine so she can erase the memories of ever appearing in a movie so terrible. The reality is that this, if handled correctly, could have been an exploration of mental health issues told through a horror lens. Of course, the idea that this movie could tackle such heavy objects adeptly is, also, highly laughable. The climax is...ok, but obviously not nearly enough to save this. There's a, almost, a clever twist in that you think it's finally over, but Elliot's niece (who's name I can't remember and I don't care) was outside their house during the climax (with her father, Elliot's brother). She was roaming around to pee or something. After Elliot kills himself and they're riding home, the girl tells her dad about the writing in the nightstand. He asks her what the writing said. And she replied that she can't see in the dark. Actually, we'll get to what she actually says in a bit. So I was like, ok, that was pretty decent. And this is where we'll end the movie, you think it's over, but it's not, but it is because the girl couldn't see in the dark. Nope, they fucked themselves out of a conclusive ending, but it is what it is. Time to get into what Elliot's niece actually said. She said, and I quote, "You know I can't read in the dark. What do you think I am? A flashlight?" and she said this with a smirk on her face like she was so proud of herself for having coming up with such a zinger. And never have I ever wanted to kick a child in the face as much as I did at that moment. Other than that, it was such a CRINGE-WORTHY line. I cringed so hard that I thought my face was permanently gonna be that way. No woman would ever love me, for having such a hideous face. It's not the only cringe-worthy moment in the film. Everything with this little annoying asshole of a niece is terrible. Just like everything about this movie, outside of the beginning, is terrible. Having seen this movie and experienced its awfulness, it's no surprise to me that Stacy Title and Jonathan Penner have not gone on to become a successful filmmaking duo. With movies this bad, you just wanna put them on a rocket ship and send them to the moon where they can keep making their shitty movies for themselves. I hated, almost, every single second of this. I'd rather have pink-eye than suffer through this again. Umm, yea, don't watch this. A few laughable moments don't make up for the overall hideousness this movie gladly provides to you on a silver platter.
I think La La Land has a shadowy culprit to blame for the big slip-up at the 2017 Academy Awards where it mistakenly was declared Best Picture before the rightful winner, Moonlight, was crowned. Actress Faye Dunaway was the one who spoke aloud the infamous slip-up, but I think she had something else on her mind. She was so preoccupied with trying NOT to think about the Bye Bye Man that she wasn't fully paying attention to the moment. Fortunately, Moonlight got its rightful due. Unfortunately, The Bye Bye Man exists as a horror film and Dunaway within it. This is a movie whose mantra is "Don't say it, don't think it," all but begging to be forgotten.
If The Bye Bye Man had been the film it appears to be in its opening scene, we might have had an effectively unnerving horror thriller. We watch in a single long take as a distressed man drives home, mutters to himself, and takes out a rifle and systematically kills every person who admits they said "it" or told someone. He goes from person to person, pleading whether they told anyone, and it's always yes. Then he moves on to kill that person, asking them the same question. It's an effectively chilling scene and a fantastic way to open a horror movie. And it's all sadly downhill from there, folks. The rest of the movie is a stupid thriller with stupid teenagers doing stupid things.
Any power the Bye Bye Man has as a concept, a mimetic virus, is wasted as a goofy Boogeyman knockoff with vague powers and intentions. Apparently, one of the insidious side effects of the Bye Bye Man is his ability to cause erectile dysfunction. After the first night he-who-shall-not-be-named is named, two of our college students talk about trying again and how "that" never happens to them, all but implying the Bye Bye Man was a sexual detriment. Another weirdly defined power is that the Bye Bye Man causes his victims to see hallucinations, though sometimes they're nightmares like maggots crawling out of eyeballs, and other times they're fantasy, like a naked friend beckoning for a lustful tryst. One character hears disturbing scratching noises and then visions of people standing buck naked on train tracks (the amount of brief nudity made me recheck that this received a PG-13 rating). "We're all losing our minds at the same time," a character bemoans at the 41-minute mark. At one point, the Bye Bye Man sends himself as a GIF, knowing how to reach millennials. I don't understand why these kids don't accept that if they see something horrific it's probably false. They know the Bye Bye Man is terrorizing them with their fears and yet they fall for it every time. When you're talking with someone and all of a sudden they start seeping blood from every orifice, maybe that should be a clue. If Elliot (Douglas Smith) knows he's afraid of his girlfriend sleeping with his best friend, then shouldn't he doubt the voracity of seeing them together after the malevolent force with evil visions has entered his life? What's the point of scratching "don't say it, don't think it" as a preventative measure? That calls more attention to the forbidden item. It's like in Inception, when they say, "don't think about elephants," and invariably that's what you're going to think about.
If the Bye Bye Man can make people say its name, then why isn't it doing this all the time? Why all the hallucinations to drive teens to kill themselves? That seems ultimately counter productive to Bye Bye Man business. Any businessperson will tell you the key to expanding your outreach is through happy customers. Fulfill these people's wishes and then come to collect later. I can write an entire proposal for the Bye Bye Man to shore up his business. He seems to be doing everything wrong. If the goal of the Bye Bye Man is to spread its name/message, along the same lines of self-preservation through proliferation like the haunted Ring VHS tape, then it needs a more straightforward approach. Let these doomed teenagers know their nightmares will end if they bring in an additional however many new victims. Alas, the Bye Bye Man is painfully unclear (it even has zero references on the Google imitator search) and just another boo spook.
Even for horror movies, the characters can be powerfully boring and meaningless. The entire premise is a group of college kids moving into a house that used to be owned by the crazy guy in the opening flashback. They each take turns seeing things, hearing things, and doing things, some as mundane as scribbling without their direct knowledge. The plot is in a holding pattern that requires characters to repeat the threat over and over. The only setup we have with these characters is one house party so we don't exactly know what they're like before they start going crazy. Much of their hallucinatory confusion could be mitigated if they just communicated with one another. "Help, Friend A, I am seeing [this]. Is that what you are seeing as well, Friend A?" It leads to a lot of rash actions for supposed friends. Elliot even refers to his friend as a "jock," which is a term I don't think anyone out of high school says. When the police suspect Elliot of foul play once his friends start dying, he is acting completely guilty. He begs Carrie Anne Moss (The Matrix) not to force him to say a certain name or else her kids might be in danger. That sounded like a thinly veiled threat. And then the police let him go!
The mystery of the Bye Bye Man's history is the only point of interest in this story, and even that has its limits. The librarian (Cleo King) is hilariously hyper focused on delivering exposition. She even knows the protagonist on a first name basis. I think she lives to tell people about this one weird event in the school's history. She even calls Elliot on the phone! The librarian reaches out to him, saying, "I've had some strange dreams ever since we talked." She then asks if she can come over to his house later. What kind of relationship does this person forge with students? Dunaway is featured as the wife of the opening killer, and I just felt so sorry for her during every second on screen. She deserves better than this. Somebody go check on Faye Dunaway and make sure she's okay.
The Bye Bye Man is a horror movie that's so bad it can be outlandishly funny. It starts off well and deteriorates rapidly, abandoning sense and atmosphere for jumbled scares. There's an extended bit during a climactic dramatic moment where a father has to convince his daughter to pee out in public. I felt so bad for every actor involved. I'll even spoil the ending, which made me howl with laughter. A little girl talks about how she saw a table with some writing. "What did the writing say?' her father asks, and oh no, here we go again you think to yourself. Then a second later the little girl says, "Daddy, you know I can't read in the dark! What do you think I am, a flashlight?" My God, that moment should have been followed by a rimshot. This half-baked movie opens up a lot more questions than it has the ability to answer. What is the mythology of this character? What's with the constant train imagery? Why does the Bye Bye Man have a pet dog? Why are the coins a significant part of its Bye Bye motif? And always, if it can simply make people talk, why isn't it doing this all the time to spread its name? The Bye Bye Man is fun bad but oh is it still bad.
Nate's Grade: D
One of the pluses of this haunted house outing is the realization that you would like to see a decent haunted house film made. On the minus side is when you admit to yourself that this isn't it. Nice to see Faye Dunaway and Carrie Anne Moss though.
What it lacks in originality it makes up for in a few good jumps. But the lack of story and scares leaves you not thinking and not saying anything good about this horror!
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