Now that we are officially a month into the New Year, Hollywood has already overindulged our sweet tooth for horror and monster cinema! This top heavy output for us fans of the macabre is a double edged sword, our need for consistent things monster and horror is being fed, however is the quality there? This month I am going to delve into 2017’s new crop of boogeymen. This is my Sunday with… The Bye Bye Man.
The Bye Bye Man
Release Date: January 13, 2017
Run Time: 96 minutes
Starring: Douglas Smith
Director: Stacy Title
Robs Score: 3/10
“Don’t think it, don’t say it.”
In the early 60’s, a grizzly series of murders were committed in a small, straight laced community. The perpetrator was “silencing” anyone who spoke the “name” of the unknown force he thought was plaguing him. Fast forward to present day, three college students, Elliot, his girlfriend Sasha, and best friend John move into an off campus house. At first everything seems idyllic, but soon things quickly turn. Sasha is plagued with a nagging cough and Elliot keeps finding a coin in his night stand that is constantly moving. A few days go by and the new tenants host a house warming party. Things seem fine until the Ouija board is taken out. During the séance, the name of The Bye Bye Man is mentioned. After this, things start to deteriorate for all those involved. Elliot and his group start experiencing horrible hallucinations, as well as frightening visions of this “Bye Bye Man.” Death is following anyone who was involved with the séance and mentions the name, and now it is up to Elliot to find out the root of these horrible events before it is too late, but can he trust what he perceives as the truth? Is The Bye Bye Man’s cruel game succeeding?
Don’t think it, don’t say it, and don’t see it would be my tag line for The Bye Bye Man. The first big budget horror/ monster release of 2017 absolutely falls short. The Bye Bye Man, while interesting in premise, fails to really capitalize on its intriguing premise or ad campaign. This film grabbed elements of Shutter Island and Sinister, threw them in a bag and came out with… nothing. While there are a few jump scares, The Bye Bye Man is a popcorn flick to the letter. It offers nothing in the way of lasting impression and unfortunately is forgotten as the movie plays out. Sub par graphics and really substandard acting absolutely buried this picture.
For me, personally, the biggest disappointment about The Bye Bye Man is the wasted potential. Films about the mind, and not being able to trust what one sees in front of them are always intriguing on first thought. Unfortunately, these films can go one of two ways, they delve into the horror jump scare aspect, or they stay grounded in the psychological aspect. I am not saying either one of these is the right way to go, however, in this case abandoning some of the is it real, or is it fake in order to up the jump scares really hurt the final product. This film is based on a chapter in Robert Damon Schneck’s book about odd Americana history. The story digs into the “real-life” story of The Bye Bye Man, and is infinitely more interesting than the version portrayed on screen. The film has some bright spot moments, especially when showing how this “curse” infects a person’s mind, and drives them to commit heinous acts of violence. The opening scene was admittedly pretty brilliant as we open with a flashback of the last case of someone being obsessed with this character. Unfortunately the rest of the film fails to continue the momentum of the opening and the real guts of the story is muddied by “Hollywood” scares. This film failed in the developmental stage and that unfortunately carried throughout to the poor final product we saw, or didn’t, in theaters.
As mentioned before, this film failed in the developmental stage and can thus be broken down into two huge aspects that hurt the film. The first was the actual plot. A couple of college student’s play around with a Ouija board, stop me if you’ve seen this one already, and the final result is something horrifying. Most times college aged people are portrayed on film they are going to, of course, fit into the stereotypes Hollywood has dictated for years. We, as an audience, understand that and have been relegated to accept it. In this film, however, it is really hard to see the three main characters ever really being friends. A “tragic backstory” is used as the reason, however there is never any real emotional weight to it; the characters really don’t seem to care for each other. The jealousy aspect is played up here, because why wouldn’t it be, and even before The Bye Bye Man starts playing with their minds it’s pretty obvious that the main character’s best friend has a thing for his girlfriend. What it all boils down to is that the characters really aren’t likable, or even believable, that they would be together. Also, the backstory of Elliot’s parents’ death didn’t really fit into the film and felt more like a ploy. The film kept referencing it, leading the audience to believe he may have had a history with The Bye Bye Man, but it never really connects with the rest of the story. There are several other instances of plot holes; every film suffers from them, but when added all together here, they really drag the picture down.
My next big critique is in the acting of the film. Let me preface this by saying I am no actor, and for as bad as the performances are here, they would still probably be better than my performance. With that said, I did not expect it to lack this much in a big release film. Some of the blame I think has to fall on the script. I know that the film was supposed to portray that you can’t believe what you are seeing, so I can understand some of the lines being given without feeling, but it should not have been this way the entire movie. The actors seemed to have no chemistry with each other, which also added to my previous point of them not being believable together. Most of the script is delivered with little to no feeling, almost as if they were bored. Again, I realize they are supposed to be somewhat trance like, but some of the performance was downright laughable. The most egregious scene was the “research scene” in the library where Elliot looks up an article on The Bye Bye Man. The librarian is more than willing to help, that poor librarian, going as far as to essentially piece the story together for Elliot. Let that sink in for a moment, a librarian who has had about three minutes of experience with this case is putting together the entire back story for the person who has been living and researching it. And the worst part, aside from Elliot knowing how it is spread and willingly allowing this poor woman to read it, is that she is not only putting the whole thing together, but acting as if this was nothing out of the ordinary. This was supposed to be a bridge scene, filling the audience in on the story alluded to in the opening, however it quickly derails and a crucial scene quickly becomes goofy. The Bye Bye Man is plagued with situations like this. What could have been a claustrophobic and psychological break down instead turned into an almost laughable performance, and I am not sure if that is the script or director’s fault for not giving emotional direction, or the actors fault for not being able to emote the proper feel.
The film was led by Douglas Smith, Lucien Laviscount, and Cressida Bonas. Not even the great Doug Jones could help this one, as The Bye Bye Man essentially just stands around any time on film. The fact that he looked like a vampire from Blade 2 in a hoodie didn’t help either. The stand out performance (I always have to find a bright spot) was Michael Trucco, who played Elliot’s brother Virgil. For the small amount of screen time he had, you absolutely understood his character. He was a hard working father and husband who loved and protected his brother. You felt as though the connection he had with his brother and family was real.
To date, The Bye Bye Man opened up at number 4 at the box office and has made $24 million. When compared to its $7 million budget, it is definitely a financial success – date night movies usually are. I really wanted to like The Bye Bye Man, a very interesting concept and story was unfortunately buried by sub-par acting, poor creature designs, and even worse graphics. If you’re looking to mindlessly kill an hour and a half, and get a few jump scares, this one could be for you.
(Rob Texter – @GrundyXIII)