Movie Review: The Bye Bye Man

An attempt at creating a new horror series offers nothing new

The Bye Bye Man
Directed by Stacy Title
With Douglas Smith, Lucien Laviscount, Cressida Bonas, Doug Jones, Carrie-Anne Moss, Faye Dunaway, Jenna Knell

The makers of The Bye Bye Man hope to launch a new horror series with an evil character that continues from episode to episode. They might have to try harder, though.

Everything about The Bye Bye Man, from the title to the characters, is too generic. Fans of the genre have seen everything before, and done a bit better.

The opening offers some promise. Back in 1969 in Madison, Wisconsin, a man goes on a rampage, killing everyone who heard a name. The killer isn't a bad person, he just sees no other way to stop some evil horror from spreading. He repeats the phrase, “Don't say it, don't think it; don't think it, don't say it.”

The film was made so a teen audience can see it in the US without adult supervision, so the murders are surprisingly bloodless.

The story skips ahead to modern times, with three college students moving into a large house all by themselves. Right away, strange things start to happen. Coins drop to the floor. Shadowy figures emerge out of doorways and pop back in. Scenes of a train accident recur.

Viewers assume a lot of this will eventually be explained, but the most frustrating part of the film is that almost none of it ever becomes clear.

The main idea is that the shadowy figure is some sort of boogeyman who can only appear to people who have heard his name. This idea has been part of urban legends for decades, often involving mirror.

The haunting, for lack of a better word, begins before the three students find the boogeyman's name, as there is little consistency in the plot.

The students wind up in a spiral of paranoia and hallucinations as they try to figure out what is happening. Of course, there are more deaths along the way.

A few things in the film do work well. The students begin to question reality versus perception. After one death, all of the witnesses claim that someone was attacking the victim, while the person was actually trying to save the victim. At least the person thinks he was trying to save her.

The point is also raised over whether something ever really happened if all evidence and witnesses have been erased.

But the negatives of the film having really nothing new to offer to the boogeyman genre and also very few effective scares outweigh the few clever moments in the script.

Surprisingly, there are some good actors in supporting roles. Carrie-Anne Moss of the Matrix series turns up as a detective investigating some of the deaths. Veteran actress Faye Dunaway shows up as someone who is connected to the 1969 murders. They lend the film a bit of B-movie horror legitimacy, but their roles are very small.

Among the younger cast, Jenna Kanell stands out as a woman with some psychic ability. She drops over to hold a séance in the haunted house. The main cast of Douglas Smith, Lucien Laviscount and Cressida Bonas does a passable but unmemorable job as the three students.

Several scenes in the preview trailer are not in the final film, which often indicates there was a lot of last minute tinkering with the film. The film was also released in the US in January, a traditional dumping ground for ideas that didn't work out.

The film is notable for having a female director, Stacy Title. Women still are seldom in the director's seat. She does a competent job, and hopefully she will be back with more original and interesting material in the future.

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