The Bye Bye Man (Movie Review)

The Bye Bye Man (Movie Review)
3 10

PLOT: Almost 50 years after an unspeakable tragedy took place, a trio of college kids take up residence in the infamous Redmon house in Wisconsin where it all occurred. There, they unwittingly awake the spirit of a malefic reaper known as The Bye Bye Man.

REVIEW: A full decade it's been since director Stacy Title gave us the urban horror anthology HOOD OF HORROR, and with her return via THE BYE BYE MAN, written by her husband Jonathan Penner, she has mounted an equally uneven, forcedly formulaic but somewhat admirable and appreciated attempt at creating a newfangled horror villain for a modern day audience. Alas, it simply isn't all that persuasive. Or very scary. Littered with stridently obnoxious jump-scares and hollow fake-out frights, superficially unlikeable characters and some dopily camped-out dialogue, there's neither a tinge of originality nor a modicum of real terror to speak of here. No, despite a kind of deeply dour and uncompromising conclusion we rarely see anymore, THE BYE BYE MAN isn't likely to enjoy an extended stay in the consciousness of the filmgoing public. Not now, not ever!

A mildly promising prologue takes us back to Madison, Wisconsin in 1969. A reporter named Larry Redmon (Leigh Whannell) has gone berserk, blasting with a shotgun every embattled soul in sight. "Don't think it, don't say it" he repeats, before turning the gun on himself. Cut to the present, where we fall into the sappily unrequited love triangle between Elliot (Douglas Smith), Sasha (Cressida Bonas) and John (Lucien Laviscount) - a trio of all-too-trendy collegiate Wisconsinites. In their first house outside the dorm, the kids take residence in the very home of Larry Redmon, unaware of the abject evil to come. Elliot discovers an old nightstand with the aforementioned phrase scrawled over it. By saying it and thinking it, The Bye Bye Man (Doug Bradley) is soon summoned in the material world - as a tall, pale, slender, black tattered figure with long-fingernails - in essence the embodiment of a grim-reaper boogeyman equppied with ludicrous supernatural powers.

Problem is, among many, The Bye Bye Man is neither convincing, nor very well defined. He has the ability to slowly possess you, make you see things you don't want to see, but can also turn you into a psycho-slasher killer. More duplicitous, he has the ability to get into your head, manipulate your thoughts and pit you against your own loved ones. In the case of our three leads, The Bye Bye Man drives an emotional wedge between lovers, causing paranoid ill-will and motivated murder among all three. A laughably rote horror movie séance is conducted by Sasha's friend, Kim (Jenna Kanell), and soon The Bye Bye Man's name lies dangerously on the lips of all involved. If the name is uttered, or even thought of, death abounds. Elliot, the Rilke quoting, Joy Division shirt donning hipster, does all he can to not only keep Sasha out of grave peril, but his older brother Virgil (Michael Trucco), Virgil's wife Trina (Marisa Echeverria) and daughter (Erica Tremblay) as well. Unfortunately, not one of these characters are compelling enough to give a scintilla of a damn about.

And frankly, neither is the movie in totality. As admirable and appreciated the attempt is to create a fresh horror villain, THE BYE BYE MAN is too strongly redolent of everything from the 1980 and 2005 iterations of the BOOGEYMAN, to the kind of menacing mythic lore seen in CANDYMAN and THE BABADOOK. Hell, there's even a demon-dog in the film than manifests from a wallpaper design (seriously) that looked far more convincing as Zuul in GHOSTBUSTERS 33 years ago. Not even the great horror stalwart Doug Jones, who has played a more effectively jarring Boogeyman in the past, the most obvious example being The Pale Man in PAN'S LABYRINTH, can elevate this woefully clichéd material. Nor can the thankless cameos from the most random of veteran actors, Faye Dunaway and Carrie-Anne Moss in particular. With no equivocation, THE BYE BYE MAN indeed pales in comparison to all, and really feels, looks and plays as hokey, jokey and juvenile as it sounds. It's pointlessly puerile and drastically derivative in just about every imaginable facet.

So much so, that in a room full of 200 or so public patrons, the film drew far more auditory laughs than terrified gasps. Not a good sign. I will say the one thing that I dug most, if you can call it that, is what happens to the principal characters in the end. Despite the shameless plug for a potential sequel, that the film offers no happy endings or neatly tied-up restorations to normalcy is, I suppose, somewhat laudatory. Perhaps it's a testament to how flatly loathsome the characters are that such a dour resolution actually comes as a pleasant surprise. Still, the ending can't atone for the preceding 90 minutes. Even the exorbitant gore for a PG-13 outing (reduced by the MPAA after an initial R-rating) can't adequately compensate for what's a gormlessly conceived story not even my 13 year old self would approve of. Heeding advice to take away? THE BYE BYE MAN is, by its own set of rules, unwise to even mention or think about. Now and onward!

Extra Tidbit: THE BYE BYE MAN opens wide Friday, January 13th.
Source: AITH



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