DIRECTOR: Stacy Title
WRITER: Jonathan Penner
When three friends move into a large old mansion off campus. They discover a side table that has the words inscribed on the inside of it saying "Don't think it, Don't say it" over and over again. This leads them to uncover the origins of a mysterious figure called 'The Bye Bye Man'. They begin to start to see nightmarish hallucinations after uttering his name. The figure is believed to be the evil behind all unspeakable acts.
The Bye Bye Man was released at the beginning of the year and into what most would consider being the studio dumping ground known as January. They dump the movies that they have no faith in, in hopes of making a few dollars off of the property. After watching this movie, while I think it has a lot of problems. I'm wondering if the studio was actually trying to make a quick buck with this or were they afraid that their latest investment may have been a bit too weird for a lot of mainstream audiences.
I only raise this question because after viewing The Bye Bye Man, it feels very odd for a movie that was released on 2,200 screens and heavily promoted to be dumped into January where this may have been a bigger hit around Halloween season. I now feel that either the studio knew that they had a stinker on their hands but on such a small budget, they probably had the chance to make it back or even more over the horror season. I think this feels more like a situation of the studio not knowing how to place and market this property as this is one strange little film.
One thing that I found that I enjoyed about this movie was that it was seriously dark. For a studio produced horror movie, it took a couple of risks. This mainly concerns the extremely dark ending for the film. It spends close to an hour and forty minutes while building to something that I thought was going to be wrapped up in this neat, happy little package and it's not at all. The entire film on a tonal level is just dark and bleak. There is not one moment of levity, and for that, I kind of liked it.
Where Bye Bye Man sadly misses the mark is that we learn nothing at all about this villain. This is clearly the origin story of this character, and you had the potential to introduce a new horror icon into popular culture, and you spend not even one single moment explaining him. By the time the credits roll, we don't know anything about him. I think this falls back on the fact that they had a possible plan to create a big franchise with this new villain and with that in mind, just decided to focus on laying out some of the lore and would dive deeper into his origin if this franchise took off. What that does in the meantime is give us a movie that makes no real sense.
When we are presented with no mythology or backstory on our villain, please make sure that the characters who we have to spend time with are somewhat likeable. Here they have chosen four very annoying college students, a sassy librarian and the iconic Faye Dunaway. With this story being steeped in darkness, it gives us an entire cast of cold and emotionless performances. The only person who looks like they are having fun is the sassy librarian. Even she is killed off in such gruesome fashion that you can't help but feel even more depressed.
An element of the film I enjoyed was the Leigh Whannell opening scene. While this opening scene doesn't do anything to tie us into the villain and his origin, I thought it was a great way to open the film and set the tone. This opens with him brandishing a shotgun and killing his neighbours and friends in an idyllic sixties suburbia. I thought it was visually impressive and creepy if not a tad bit poorly acted by the entire cast of supporting characters. Along with the dark ending for the film, it feels like the movie is bookended by probably the most intense moments The Bye Bye Man has to offer.
Visually, I think The Bye Bye Man is pretty impressive. While there are a couple of scenes that feature one of the most poorly constructed CGI skinless hounds that I think I've ever seen put on film, it's not enough to kill the rest of the visuals that happen in the film. I loved all the nightmarish sequences where we saw characters without eyes. I also loved the long tracking house shots that happen throughout the film. If anything, I have to give a hand to director Stacy Title for delivering something not boring but with a little bit of flair.
Lastly, the acting in the movie is all over the place. You manage to secure two iconic stars like Faye Dunaway and Carrie-Anne Moss, and you give them supporting parts with pretty much nothing to do. Cleo King as the sassy librarian is probably the most enjoyable role in the movie. Leigh Whannell also looks like he's having a blast getting his Amityville on. Doug Jones is unrecognisable as The Bye Bye Man, and because we get nothing about his character, he is given nothing in the way of a performance. We also have the three main stars who were all really annoying to me.
DEATH TOLL: 11
BLOOD AND GORE:
- A woman is shotgun blasted in the chest.
- A disabled man is shotgun blasted in the back.
- Two women are shotgun blasted in the back and stomach.
- A family is shown covered in blood after a car accident.
- A woman is hit by a train.
- A man is smacked in the side of the head with a baseball bat.
- A woman is hit by a speeding car.
- A man drinks drain cleaning and vomits up blood.
- A woman's hands are shown covered in blood.
- The back of a woman's skull is missing, and brains and blood are shown.
- A woman is seen with no eyes and blood is seen pouring out of the socket.
- A woman is seen holding a bloody knife with two people dead on the floor.
- A man is shot in the stomach.
- We see a nightmarish vision of a woman who is all cut up and bleeding.
- A man shoots himself in the head.
- A woman is thrown over a bannister and has no eyes.
- A woman is repeatedly stabbed in the face with scissors.
- We see a nightmarish vision of a woman burning alive.
The Bye Bye Man had the potential to possibly introduce a new generation of horror fans to an iconic new horror villain, and instead, they give us a movie where the main villain is given no backstory, some poorly explained mythology and terribly unlikeable characters. By the time the movie ends, we learn nothing about the title character. If it weren't for the visual flourishes and an extremely brutal opening and bleak ending, we might have had one of the worst movies of the year with The Bye Bye Man.