Review: The Bye Bye Man (2017)

The Bye Bye Man (2017)

Directed by: Stacy Title | 92 minutes | horror, thriller | Actors: Doug Jones, Carrie-Anne Moss, Faye Dunaway, Douglas Smith, Lucien Laviscount, Cressida Bonas, Michael Trucco, Jenna Kanell, Erica Tremblay, Marisa Echeverria, Cleo King, Leigh Whannell, Keelin Woodell, Lara Knox, Jonathan Penner, Nicholas Sadler, Martha Hackett, Ava Penner, Andrew Gorell

Three Wisconsin students, Elliott (Douglas Smith), his girlfriend Sasha (Cressida Bonas), and Elliott’s best friend John (Lucien Laviscount) decide to rent a house together. What initially seems an uncomfortable situation, because John has a crush on Sasha, turns out to be hardly relevant to the story. Renting an old, empty house is a nice variation on the “house in the woods” that often appears in horror films. In the basement they find old furniture, including a cupboard with a hidden text message: “Don’t think about it, don’t say it”. Mysterious silver dollars pop up and a dog-like animal may or may not be hidden in or around the house, leaving marks in stone walls on the outside. Over time, the threat escalates, especially when the housewarming turns into a botched seance with a fourth attendee, Kim (Jenna Kanell). She calls herself psychic and tries to connect the friends with whatever force interferes with them. Meanwhile, they all have hallucinations. Their delusions can be traced to “don’t think about it, don’t say it” and turn out to involve the murderous behavior of a journalist, Larry Redmon (Leigh Whannell), who shot several friends and acquaintances in 1969. Redmon, in turn, was investigating a number of murders committed by a teenager in Iowa just before. The connection between the cases? The Bye Bye Man…

‘The Bye Bye Man’ is a hazy horror film that completely squanders a potentially interesting angle around the mysterious Bye Bye Man (Doug Jones). After the still somewhat acceptable opening in which Larry begins his killing spree in a prologue, the film quickly goes downhill. It’s one thing to obscure the origins of the impending evil, it’s another to provide absolutely no background, no story, or even a motivation for the villain. And when the Bye Bye Man appears on the screen, it does not look scary at all. Why does he have a dog with him? What is the meaning of the speeding train that the friends see in the hallucinations? What is the reason for the Bye Bye Man’s curse and how exactly does the mechanism of not thinking about it and not talking about it work? A scary ogre, what should be the Bye Bye Man, only works effectively if the ground rules are set and the film follows a certain internal logic. If the filmmakers themselves don’t follow the basic rules for effective horror, how do you get your viewers involved in a lifeless story without a common thread? In fact, much of ‘The Bye Bye Man’ makes the viewer laugh rather than shudder. The acting can be called mediocre at best, with Bonas and Kanell certainly not reaching that level. Surprisingly, two more famous faces appear in supporting roles: Carrie-Ann Moss as the detective and Oscar winner Faye Dunaway as the widow of Larry Redmon. Even their presence barely manages to take the film to a higher level.

Soon ‘The Bye Bye Man’ starts to irritate and later even get boring. Then 90 minutes can still be quite long and although the film is based on one of the stories from the collection ‘The Bridge to Body Island’ by screenwriter Robert Damon Schneck, the whole thing rattles on all sides. It is also a pretty bloodless film in several respects: it hardly wants to be exciting and when there are murders, there is hardly any sign of injuries. This also means that a large part of the (fixed) intended effect of the film is lost.

All in all: skip this bite and put on a good horror movie instead. There are plenty of better movies on offer, so why waste time on this?

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