Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 37 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Terror, Horror Violence, Bloody Images, Sexual Content, Thematic Elements, partial Nudity, some Language and Teen Drinking
Directed by: Stacy Title
Written by: Jonathan Penner
(based on the short story THE BRIDGE TO BODY ISLAND by Robert Damon Schneck)
Starring: Douglas Smith, Lucien Laviscount, Cressida Bonas, Doug Jones, Carrie-Anne Moss, Faye Dunaway, Michael Trucco & Cleo King
I remember seeing a trailer for THE BYE BYE MAN over a year ago (in front of HARDCORE HENRY). At that time, it was slated for a June 2016 release date (a good sign) and had an R rating (another good sign). However, neither of these things panned out because THE BYE BYE MAN wound up getting released in January (a dumping ground for studios) and had been edited down to a more teenage-friendly PG-13. I say this with no exaggeration whatsoever, THE BYE BYE MAN just may be one of the worst horror movies to ever receive a nationwide theatrical release. In just about every way, this film is godawful and dull as dirt.
Elliot (Douglas Smith), his girlfriend Sasha (Cressida Bonas) and his best friend John (Lucien Laviscount) have just moved into a fixer-upper home. Things seem to be going well enough, until a housewarming party results in Elliot discovering something written in a creepy antique nightstand. There’s lots of rambling and the name “The Bye Bye Man.” After uttering the Bye Bye Man’s name during a séance, Elliot and his friends soon find themselves beset by hallucinations and the feeling that the mysterious Bye Bye Man is coming to do…something. It’s not clear. In fact, a lot of this movie is vague and incoherent. This results in attempts at scares and disturbing material, but mostly boredom and unintentional laughter.
To BYE BYE MAN’s credit, it opens with a literal bang as we get a prologue of a guy going on a shooting spree in the 1960’s. The guy is played by Leigh Whannell (who clearly needed quick cash) and this opening sequence seemed to kick the film off to a reasonable start. It’s too bad that this short prologue is the only semi-redeemable quality in this film. Sure, Doug Jones plays the titular Bye Bye Man (under make-up that looked like a less-burned version of unmasked Deadpool), but he’s barely in the film. Popping up for a few obligatory jump scares and menacing hand motions during the film’s goofy finale.
The supporting cast also has Carrie-Anne Moss slumming it as a concerned detective (popping in for three brief scenes) and Faye Dunaway (for some unknown reason) delivering a laughably bad exposition dump. The film’s supporting performances (though completely forgettable and wasted) are all worth mentioning over the three main characters and their psychic friend (Jenna Kanell). These four cursed victims are just plain bland. I didn’t care if any of they lived or died. Actually, their demises would have ended this movie faster, so I guess that I was rooting for them to die from the moment their dumbasses stepped on screen.
BYE BYE MAN doesn’t fare much better on its technical levels because this film looks cheaply constructed. This includes: awful sound design (indicating cheap jump scares), bad CGI (showcasing the Bye Bye Man’s reflection in a broken window), and lots of mind-boggling mythology behind the character that simply doesn’t make sense. Why does the Bye Bye Man seem to ride into town on a dark train that’s never delved into? Why does he have a skinless dog that appears to devour the deceased victims? What are the Bye Bye Man’s powers? It seems like characters simply hallucinate and get sick…much like they just took some bad drugs. Drugs seem far scarier than the Bye Bye Man and that shouldn’t be the case at all in this film!
I won’t deny that there weren’t occasional moments of unintentional guffaws to be had in this failure of a horror film. The funniest of which has the Bye Bye Man imitating Ninja Cat from YouTube in a “spooky” library. I was cackling, when I should have been creeped out. There’s also a moment in which a character is engulfed in cheesy-looking CGI flames and it was meant to be disturbing, but wound up being hilarious. A train scene (already spoiled in the trailer) also had me laughing and so did a bit where the Bye Bye Man appears on a character’s cell phone…for some inexplicable reason. The icing on this lop-sided cake is the “Bye Bye Man” is not a scary name and will likely incite far more giggles than gasps when it’s spoken aloud.
When THE BYE BYE MAN isn’t so bad that it’s funny, the film turns into a boring endurance test. There are many moments that drag on and on, with no real end in sight…other than the Bye Bye Man inevitably coming to do something vague. The film attempts to build muddled lore behind its titular character and was clearly setting itself up as a potential new horror franchise. I highly doubt that will happen. If it does, the BYE BYE sequels will likely go direct-to-video. Anyway, I’m rambling now. This film has driven me to the point of random madness (much like its characters encounter). Avoid this terrifyingly inept would-be excuse for a horror film and watch something else, anything else.