If You Thought the Title was Bad...
January is generally known as the worst month for new film releases and 2017 is continuing that trend. While major studios are pushing their films for award season, January can feel like studio leftovers from last year and The Bye Bye Man feels like an endlessly dry and tasteless appetizer compared to other great horror film entrees with the same basic premise (It Follows, Sinister).
The story involves three friends moving into an old creepy house house together in Madison, Wisconsin (but it might as well have been anywhere) and uncover a small table with writings scribbled inside of the drawer saying "don't think it, don't say it" (the tagline for the movie) and "The Bye Bye Man" carved underneath it (seems like an odd place to put the name if you're not supposed to think or say it). Once one of the friends says Bye Bye Man and puts the thought into all of their heads, they are all doomed by the Bye Bye Man, a mysterious hooded figure and his terribly CGI'd, dog-like companion and they must stop him from spreading to other people like a virus.
Who is the Bye Bye Man? Why does he haunt people? How do his powers work? Why do they keep showing a train? What does his dog do? Are a few questions that popped into my head during the movie and let me assure you none of those are answered. The only mythology we get about Adios Man is a flashback from the 60's during the opening scenes, where a man guns down his neighbors (with no blood) before committing suicide repeatedly saying, "don't think it, don't say it". PSA: If those two lines don't do it for you, get ready for them to be repeated ad nauseum for the next 90 minutes.
Speaking of suicide, the script is about as helpless as the characters, borrowing every genre cliche it can find and wasting what could have been a cool horror villain with some good actors along the way. The three friends (not the good actors I'm referring to) we are forced to follow throughout the movie are Elliot (Douglas Smith) and Sasha (Cressida Bonas)—who are dating—and Elliot's best friend John (Lucien Laviscount)—who looks like a poor man's Drake—are your run-of-the-mill college students who get no other character traits other than the guys played baseball together once. The acting is laughably bad just like the dialogue and the performances are all over the place. Sasha looks like she is on downers the whole movie (I guess the Bye Bye Man can give you a fever?), Elliot looks like he is on cocaine and John was sweating like he was on ecstasy. This movie could have all been the result of some college student's bad acid trip and I wouldn't be surprised at all.
Other characters like the librarian (Cleo King) and Elliot's brother Virgil (Michael Trucco), showed up a couple of times just to provide exposition and move the story along. Carrie-Anne Moss is shoehorned in as the detective that notices something strange is happening and so is Faye Dunaway who looks lost and is also irrelevant to the story, but none of them affect the boring plot whatsoever. Most of the film is sloppy setup leaving the audience waiting for the unlikable characters to meet their demise, with some bad PG-13 jump scares thrown in, that were almost all revealed in the trailer already.
The character Bye Bye Man, played by veteran actor Doug Jones (Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth), sure looked menacing enough like Tony Todd's Candyman, but was given barely any screen time to show his makeup or abilities. He can mentally trick you into seeing and hearing things that aren't there, but that's about it, and his zombie dog barely does anything but stand by his side. The film was originally supposed to be rated R and reeks of the studio watering it down to sell more tickets, but the film desperately needed something and gore might have been a redeeming quality in an otherwise unredeemable film.
Overall, The Bye Bye Man is a thoughtless and forgettable film that isn't scary enough for the average horror fan to be thrilled in the theater and not gory enough for the hardcore horror enthusiast looking for teenage mutilation. January has officially brought us the worst movie of 2017.