Before I launch into telling you why you probably shouldn’t go see THE BYE BYE MAN, a few words about my attitude towards appreciating bad movies. Now I’m all for indulging in a preposterous film every now and again. I’ll take in a screening of THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN or and Ed Wood classic when the mood strikes me. Along these lines, I do acknowledge that modern cinema is just as likely to be terrible as these classics. With this said, I will take a good movie over a bad one every time. I like to reward and celebrate talent and bravery in filmmaking, and not incentivize cash grabbing by uninterested and lazy filmmakers. THE BYE BYE MAN is on the verge of being so bad it is good, and though I did have fun laughing along with the rest of the audience, I still emphatically urge you to support quality horror film over this admittedly entertaining drivel.
THE BYE BYE MAN starts out with promise. A crazed and armed middle aged man (Leigh Whannell) in a sweater vest pulls up to a house, grabs his shotgun, and demands to know if the woman living there told anyone else “the name.” After blowing her away (in an entirely bloodless shotgun shot), he moves on to the next house on the street. A cold, violent open like this is enough to grab my horror-loving interest, but what follows generally disappoints.
When the film jumps to present day we are introduced to a trio of college kids who rent a giant furnished house to escape campus and save some money. After their inaugural house party ends in a séance strange things start happening to our trio. For example, Eliot (Douglas Smith) sees a man standing in his bedroom where his cloak typically hangs.
What’s that, you say? Why the hell does this personality-deficient coed have a random black cloak hanging on his wall? Because that’s what happens in horror films! This must be the reason, because no other solutions are ever given. This is also the reason they have the séance in the first place, occasionally hang out with a psychic chick, and go exploring in the unnecessarily complicated basement.
There is plenty of nightmare fuel in THE BYE BYE MAN, but the vast majority of it is introduced without context or mythology. The titular boogeyman (Doug Jones) looks unassuming, but he comes with a skinless hound and for some reason half dollar coins drop out of nowhere just before he appears. In all honesty, there is no reason for all of this villain’s accoutrement. The accessorizing is deliberate and designed to add some flair to the story and those coins sound chilling when they hit the hardwood floors, but without a backstory or mythology is just comes across as shallow attempts to get a rise out of an that is already audience primed for some scares.
The other fundamental flaw in the monster the Bye Bye Man is the way that he causes death and mayhem. After learning his name, he may or may not appear to you (the necessity of the apparition is unclear), and he causes you to see things that aren’t there. This trickery will lead to you stabbing a loved one (by mistaking them for an enemy), running towards a moving train (after seeing a family in need on the tracks), or just getting mad at your girlfriend (after you see her cheating on you with your own best friend). This power the Bye Bye Man has is pretty cool, but it means that he does not actually do any killing on his own. If this induced insanity is the real power to be feared, why include all of the cloaks and coins and hounds?
Beyond the giant vacuum in the plot left without any mythological development of the Bye Bye Man himself, there is essentially no character development with our college students. We learn a couple nuggets of information here and there, but these pieces of information never amount to any personality or sympathy for any of the characters. In fact we learn more about the sweater vest aficionado from the opening scene than we do about any of these kiddos. This does nothing to make the audience engaged at all with their lives or their deaths.
The plot is pretty dumb, the monster disconnected, and the victims forgettable. All of these missteps in the same film add up to either two experiences: you either dig how bad it is and decide to laugh at the film, or you are frustrated that you wasted time and money on such an uninspired, disposable flick. By the end of THE BYE BYE MAN I intentionally decided to take the former stance, and I had fun making fun of it. But this does not mean that films like this deserve your financial support or attention. Let’s just focus on finding the truly great horror films of 2017, and not have to resort to merely making the best of the drivel we are given.