The Bye Bye Man starts out with a darn good kick to the face (and door). The lightening choices and camera angles make it immediately obvious you’re looking at a flashback to a time gone by when neighborhoods bore a strong resemblance to Stepford-land – manicured lawns, bright boxy houses, pretty furniture and perfectly coiffed ladies. Into the happy silence enter mayhem. I won’t give it away but I will say it was so very messed up that I was immediately excited for the remainder of the ride (yes, I know what that says about me and I’m fine with it). I literally “cakes and pies” clapped my hands.
It was a bit of the expected when the movie then transitioned to modern day and we meet our three main characters on a college campus but hey, it’s a horror movie. What’s this kind of thriller without a mix of college students? Three friends (a girl, her boyfriend and his best friend) decided to move into a house office campus because… it’s off campus. Naturally the house they settle on is large, with a sprawling basement full of furniture and is creepy as all get out… so of course the first thing they do is throw a party.
From this point the movie starts to slowly fall apart which is really unfortunate because the directing is really good and there was sooooo much potential for the scary. The story gets rushed forward and moments that could’ve heighten the suspense and tension to ultimately scare the bejezzus out of everyone (seriously there’s this scene with two little doors and a kid that had me yelling “oh HEEEELLLL NO” at the screen) didn’t hold the thread. There were several ironic song references and moments of macabre comedy that carried the movie and looked like it would get it back on track few times but ultimately the story was just rushed. This house even has a hallway just begging someone to say “come play with us” standing at one end.
The Bye Bye Man is a pretty unique origin story-once you get past the name-for its boogie man. It’s actually a pretty freaky and believable concept-in the I believe in scare folktales as fact kind of way-but it settled for standard (poorly plotted) genre tricks to play out its story on screen and that choice seriously short changes the audience.
So instead of an increasingly spine-chilling movie you get one with fits and starts of good suspenseful moments to rushed dialogue to really well executed turmoil and confusion, to over emoting that fails to build tension to typical horror gimmicks (there’s a séance and everything) and poorly timed music shifts right to the obvious open-ended conclusion leaving the door open for the boogie man’s possible return.
For the most part, the cast wasn’t too bad except for the lead actress, Cressida Bonas, who played Sasha. That bit of casting was an all-around bad call. She doesn’t sell her role in this flick at all. From beginning to end it felt like she was still giving a table read (and a first week of read at that) and her affect when things were supposed to be dramatic or scary was seriously off; as in dead.
There were highlight performances, one in particular is Cleo King as Mrs. Watkins the librarian. She played her role with wit, flair and subtly. She lost her shit with a peppy note in her voice and bounce in her step. Not to mention, her death was all kinds of jacked up – as it should be, she’s the LIBRARIAN. Another honorable mention, the Widow Redmon, played by Faye Dunaway was rather well done. I was whole-heartedly behind her solution to these kids’ problem and her introduction returned the movie to the past- and more excellently performed murderous shenanigans. Although, I’d like to point out here, there wasn’t nearly enough blood given the number of bodies on the ground.
The director, Stacy Title, did her thing as well as could be done I suppose, but she really didn’t have a good enough script to work with.
I love horror movies; good ones, bad ones; big budget, low budget, studio or indie. I’m always down to give a flick the chance to scare the ever-loving crap out of me or just leave me with paranoid dreams and conspiracy theories (it’s happened, let’s not discuss it). I’m particularly fond of the boogie man troupe (I don’t know why… blame Clive Barker) and the many ways writers and directors find to bring new interpretations of these folktales to life. I’m also very forgiving of movie titles. Because at the end of the day, it’s all about the scare factor. I’m sad to say it but The Bye Bye Man is just ok; as in the shoulder shrug “eh” kind of ok.
It’s a shame because any movie that includes its characters having wicked detailed and realistic hallucinations and someone taking a vigorously swung bat to the head, could’ve been something great.
Rating: 2.75 out of 5 stars
People commit unthinkable acts every day. Time and again, we grapple to understand what drives a person to do such terrible things. But what if all of the questions we’re asking are wrong? What if the cause of all evil is not a matter of what… but who?
From the producer of Oculus and The Strangers comes THE BYE BYE MAN, a chilling horror-thriller that exposes the evil behind the most unspeakable acts committed by man. When three college friends stumble upon the horrific origins of the Bye Bye Man, they discover that there is only one way to avoid his curse: don’t think it, don’t say it. But once the Bye Bye Man gets inside your head, he takes control, is there a way to survive his possession?
Cast: Douglas Smith, Lucien Laviscount, Cressida Bonas, Douglas Jones, Carrie-Anne Moss, Faye Dunaway
Writer: Jonathan Penner
Director: Stacy Title