Goodbye, I’ll see you in Hell
Yesterday, we took a look at a film that was recommended to me by several people as one of the best of the year. Today, we take a look at something that was roundly slammed for being one of the absolute worst of the year by several of my fellow critics. And unlike my take on Wind River, I agree with what others are saying about The Bye Bye Man: it doesn’t just suck, it doesn’t just blow, it exists on a hypothetical dimension where it’s possible to suck and blow at the same time while you making you pray for the sweet release of death…or until the movie stops, you drama queen.
So college dipshit Elliot (Douglas Smith) moves off campus into a very large home with his acting-deficient girlfriend, Sasha (Cressida Bonas), and his much better looking friend, John (Lucien Laviscount). The house also happens to be haunted (why the hell wouldn’t it be?) and after hearing mysterious coins dropping everywhere, Elliot discovers a drawer inscribed with the mantra “Don’t think it, don’t say it” over and over again. Peeling deeper, he discovers the name “The Bye Bye Man,” and says it out loud during a seance conducted by Sasha’s friend, Kim (Jenna Kanell). This triggers the four college students to experience powerful hallucinations all orchestrated by the Bye Bye Man (Doug Jones) who…doesn’t do anything to these kids. He mostly has a creepy looking face and points at them and let’s them experience badly acted hallucinations for the purpose of…God only knows what.
No, I mean only through the divine intervention of Jesus H. Christ can you make heads or tails of this plot. The lore behind the Bye Bye Man is nebulous at best, schizoid-manic-depressive at worst. I get the filmmakers were attempting to create a new horror icon in the vein of Jigsaw or perhaps Alien, but the problem with that is the filmmakers here needed their beloved icon to actually do something. As I stated, he just pops out of the shadows and dauntlessly stares at his victims pointing at them. The friggin’ Bughuul from Sinister at least kept appearing to his erstwhile victim, slowly driving him insane as he subtlety manipulated his daughter into committing atrocities. And at least Bughuul had a home video collection of his horrid crimes against other families that were genuinely unnerving to watch. Bye Bye Man apparently makes people jealous enough against each other so they can go and brutally murder each other.
Then again, his powers are confusing and almost random. At one point, the Bye Bye Man giving one character a massive cold, then he forces another to see maggots, and he makes another apparently impotent in bed (no seriously, that was a plot point). Furthermore, the Bye Bye Man’s power over his victims apparently spreads by simply saying his name out loud before he apparently starts haunting anyone who heard the name to kill every person they mentioned his name to…and if you think that sounds confusing, you should try watching the damn film yourself. As far as I can tell, the only way to protect yourself from the Bye Bye Man is to not think or say his name; however, this tactic doesn’t work worth a piss as the ghoul still haunts your ass until you kill yourself. However, the victims are also overcome with an intense desire to prevent the Bye Bye Man’s power from spreading, so they literally murder anyone that heard the Bye Bye Man’s name in passing before the victims off themselves. See? This shit is circuitous and roundabout that it fails to make a lick of damn sense.
And once again, the Bye Bye Man himself doesn’t do anything. It was a waste to get prosthetic-dependent actor Doug Jones (the faun from Pan’s Labyrinth and Abe Sapien from Hellboy) to stand around in a trench coat next to a big dog that also doesn’t do anything. But hey, at least he kept his goddamn mouth shut and we didn’t have to hear such magnificent dialogue from the masterminds behind Snoop Dogg’s Hood of Horror…no really, that’s the husband-wife duo’s last work before The Bye Bye Man. That might help explain why the characterizations behind your protagonists are virtually nonexistent, and why the whole lot of them were directed so poorly. Granted, that could also be because the trio of Smith, Bonnas and Laviscount are amazingly terrible actors who couldn’t hack it on sleazy soap operas on the CW. And with this black hole of talent, some poor quality thespian had to be sacrificed to this gaping maw, so poor Carrie-Ann Moss (Trinity herself) had to be suckered in as well.
Now let’s be real here, a confusing backstory for a villain, terrible actors, awful script, and a general lack of care never stopped icons like Freddy Krugger or Jason Voorhees from becoming popular. But what they had that Bye Bye Man does not are two things: 1) actual, original personality and 2) they were actually scary. Bye Bye Man’s power set seems to be a combination of Candyman and The Ring, with some cheap ass hallucinations from Flatliners thrown in for good measure. Everything about him is derivative from other, more infamous horror films and he doesn’t have a unique hook that separates him from the dime-a-dozen spooky ghouls that flooded the film market in the wake of Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street back in the 1980s. But even the worse imitators of Jason and Freddy were at the very least scary for a brief few seconds, The Bye Bye Man can’t even do a jump scare right.
How do you mess that up? The cheapest and easiest high imaginable for a film, surprise, is completely lost on these filmmakers. First of all, nothing scary happens for the first third of this 100-minute film; and when shit gets real, the worst threat are doors opening and closing by themselves with some faulty electricity. And when the film decides to ramp up the psychological torment against our supposed “heroes,” it’s limited to some badly edited hallucinations that merely show something embarrassing rather than spine-tingling scary.
I hate to be the one to be advising filmmakers who have been making horror flicks since I was an infant, but what makes something scary is a genuine sense of dread. Points are given if the dread is symbolic or reminiscent of a common anxiety facing individuals, but at the very least some interesting visuals can be thrown at the audience to keep them engaged. Failing all that, you can at least make the movie suspenseful by giving a constant threat that means our protagonists death, harm or worse. But no, The Bye Bye Man couldn’t hack it for any of even the most basic qualities of a competent film.
It transcends incompetence into becoming something infuriatingly moronic. Do not insult my intelligence with some complicated and brain dead premise that would have earned a failing grade in even a community college course for creative writing. This is why the film deserves ire. This is why I’ve chosen to review this movie eleven months after it’s forgotten release. Because it’s not just bad, it’s god awful. A true contender for my Worst of 2017, and let me tell you: the list is crowded this year. Oh yes, forget Some Ol’ Bullshit. This film is a waste of the sperm that spawned everyone in its production. The true rating is…
FUCK THIS MOVIE