The Bye Bye Man Review: A Modern Day Boogeyman
The Bye Bye Man is the new film from acclaimed filmmaker Stacy Title. Written by her husband Jonathan Penner, the film focuses on three friends who move into a house near their college campus only to discover that there is some unknown evil lurking inside. The three friends begin to see things that bring their deepest and darkest fears to life. Together, the three friends must attempt to discover the origins of The Bye Bye Man and what they can do to stop him from destroying their lives.
Horror films, while looked down upon by most critics, are notably the most successful of all film genres. Horror movies are cheap to make, and as long as they provide some decent scares, they usually double or triple their budget at the Box Office. The Bye Bye Man was originally slated to be released in June of 2016 but was moved to Friday, January 13, 2017. While some may view this as a bad sign, I think STX Entertainment made the right choice considering that The Conjuring 2, Lights Out, and Don’t Breathe dominated the box office during the summer of 2016.
While The Bye Bye Man is no Conjuring 2 or Lights Out, I do believe that it is a fun and entertaining horror flick that attempts to reinvent the Boogeyman in a unique and interesting way. The coolest concept about this film is that you cannot escape the Bye Bye Man. He follows you wherever you go, and once he gets inside your head, it’s impossible to get him out. The entire opening sequence where we see Larry (Leigh Whannell) going on a killing spree setups the film rather nicely. As a viewer, you immediately get sucked into the story and want to know what the hell is going on and what is going to happen next.
As the film switches gears to introduce Elliot, Sasha, and John, the story does feel rather clichéd and uninspired. The idea of people moving into a haunted house has been done to death already, so I can see why people will easily write the film off based on that concept alone. What is interesting, however, is that there are a lot of smaller elements within the story that kept me intrigued. I found the table and the coin to be interesting plot points, yet the film doesn’t explain much of anything. I think the film would have worked better more focused on the origins of the Bye Bye Man rather than this tale of three friends trying to figure out a way to stop him while trying to keep their sanity.
It should be noted that this film is inspired by a chapter in Robert Damon Schneck’s book The President’s Vampire so for everyone who is trying to say that the title is stupid, the title is based on a character in the book. While watching the film, you can tell that Penner and Title worked together on trying to make the best film they could with the limited budget they had. You know both of them knew the horror genre well and wanted to do something fresh with the material. The scenes that really stood out to me where the scenes where they toyed with the idea of is this real or am I imagining this? The hallucination sequences, especially the one that takes place leading up to the ending were great to watch and messes with the audience. My crowd went wild when the camera pulls back to reveal what really happened.
Regarding the performances, they are hit and miss. While the cast looked and fit the part, I struggled with how the actors handled the material. You can tell most of these actors are new to the acting game and haven’t had much experience in front of the camera. Out of the three leads, Douglas Smith was the best of the bunch. While I wouldn’t say that his performance was strong, I would say that he embraced the material and how his character should react given the current situation. Cressida Bonas as Sasha was very easy on the eyes, but when it came to her performance, she was pretty much dead on arrival. I honestly felt like she was trying, but her performance just didn’t convey any sort of believability. The same thing can be said for Lucien Laviscount who played John. He is a great looking guy, but his performances don’t feel genuine at all.
Because the performances were so weak, I would be lying if I didn’t admit they were often distracting and took me out of the film from time to time. Interestingly enough, while the three leads weren’t that great, there was a great supporting cast that included Cleo King, Carrie-Anne Moss, Leigh Whannell, and even, Faye Dunaway. Yes, you read that right Faye “F-ing” Dunaway has a small role in this film. It is always shocking to me when notable actors show up in films like this, and they outshine the actual stars of the project. While I think the supporting roles helped the film greatly, they also reminded the audience of how poor the younger actors were in the film.
When all is said and done, The Bye Bye Man is a decent horror flick that could have been better. There are noteworthy moments in the film including the psychological aspect. Title carefully crafts each scene and even manages to place little Easter eggs throughout the film that the casual filmgoer will certainly miss while watching. During the post credit Q&A, Penner pointed out that the original cut contained a lot more gore and violence. He said that they had to cut a lot of these scenes out to obtain the film’s PG-13 rating.
While I don’t know if adding more violence, sex, and gore into the film would have made it better; I do know that horror fanatics would have appreciated it much more as an R-rated film. I completely understand studios going after the teenage demographic because let’s be honest they are ones who see films like this in theaters. However with horror, it is always a gamble to make it PG-13 because there is such a loyal group of horror fans that expect either originality or gore in their films.
The Bye Bye Man attempts to tackle certain themes but the lack of genuine scares. The poor performances and very little gore will more than likely leave horror fans wanting more. I think you can have fun with the Bye Bye Man just as long as you go into it with your expectations in check. This isn’t the best horror film of the year but it is far from the worst. It is ultimately a middle of the road horror that hits the mark on certain things while missing others completely. Hopefully, the Blu-Ray will feature the original cut which I would be more than happy to revisit and review. I am so curious to see what the film could have been vs. what it turned out to be to appeal to the MPAA to achieve the PG-13 rating.
Scott “Movie Man” Menzel’s rating for The Bye Bye Man is a 6 out of 10.