It’s a well-known movie fact that the first three months of the year (and especially January) and where movies go to die – horror movies are especially prone to this. If you’re watching a new release before April, it’s even more probable than usual that it’s not going to be any good. Such is the case with The Bye Bye Man, a by-the-numbers horror movie that, on paper, should be particularly scary and original. On the big screen, it’s dull – so laughably lame that it’s almost offensive.
People commit unthinkably horrible acts every day, and we grapple with the question of what drives a person to do such terrible things. But what if the questions we’re asking are wrong, and the cause of all evil is not a matter of what, but who? In their new house, three college friends (Douglas Smith, Cressida Bonas and Lucien Laviscount) stumble find a draw with a single name scratched into it – the Bye Bye Man. And once he’s in your head, he takes control – the only way to avoid the curse is not think about or say his name. But as his menace comes closer, the three find themselves fighting against an unstoppable evil as they try to escape with their lives.
The Bye Bye Man is not a very good watch, but it is a massively frustrating one at points. We rarely see fresh or interesting horror, and the film must be applauded for trying new things – sadly, it fails to use them to any degree of effectiveness. The concept of a malevolent being that pushes people to insanity to spread itself is a good one for a horror film, but it is barely explored even to a surface level. It also suffers from a mythology overload – the being has so many calling cards, it’s mental. His arrival is announced by the presence of his name, a coin, a train, a poorly-realised CGI dog (most of these completely randomly chosen). It’s overkill, and it’s not particularly frightening overkill.
The lack of frights is also complemented by the poor acting of our three leads. Smith powers through the film with a kind of wide-eyed intensity, just the wrong side of hammy to make his performance too much. Bonas spends the movies struggling with her American accent and trying to convince us that developing a cough is a harbinger of bad things to come. I don’t particularly remember Laviscount, and I watched the film an hour ago – make of that what you will.
We have better (though that’s not saying too much) performances from some of the bit players. Carrie-Anne Moss shows up as a very unconvincing bad cop in what can only be a paycheque role. More surprising is the appearance of Faye Dunaway as the widow of an earlier victim – it’s a shame to see her reduced to garbage like this (although her appearance does result in the movie’s most interesting question – what is she doing here?). However, in the midst of all of this, there is one genuinely good actor – Jenna Kanell, who plays a goth psychic type and generates both tension and sensuality, and sadly gets far too little screen time. That the movie has any score at all is pretty much down to her.
The Bye Bye Man is an annoying picture, which is too stupid to be scary, yet too boring to really sustain any interest. It’s a lazy and cheap horror, with very little to recommend it. I think a line that has been used by pretty much every critic going is the best way to end this. The Bye Bye Man – don’t think it, don’t say it and, most importantly, don’t watch it.
Director: Stacy Title
Cast: Douglas Smith (Elliot), Lucien Laviscount (John), Cressida Bonas (Sasha), Doug Jones (The Bye Bye Man), Faye Dunaway (Widow Redmon), Carrie-Anne Moss (Detective Shaw)
Running Time: 96 Mins