THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"THE BYE BYE MAN"
The Bye Bye Man is one of the most amateurish wide-release movies I've ever seen. Why anyone thought this thing was in good enough shape to warrant an opening in more than 2,000 theaters is a mystery. If nothing else, it provides co-star Faye Dunaway (yes, really) a credit even more embarrassing than 1996's Dunston Checks In. It's not even the fun kind of awful, where you can at least chuckle at the incompetence on display. No, it's just the painful, When will this be over? kind of bad.
Douglas Smith and Lucian Laviscount play Elliot and John, college buddies who move off campus and into a creepy old house. Joining them is Elliot's girlfriend Sasha (Cressida Bonas), whom John is secretly in love with. Shortly after moving in, Sasha begins feeling like something is haunting the place. Her friend Kim (Jenna Kanell) conducts a séance, after which all of them start having bizarre hallucinations. In a manner that is only half-explained and therefore utterly nonsensical, Elliot realizes that they're being stalked by the Bye Bye Man, a reaper who comes if you think or speak his name.
Unlike A Nightmare on Elm Street and Candyman – two horror films that are superficially similar in nature – The Bye Bye Man makes the fatal mistake of waiting over an hour to explain who the titular villain is. Since the movie is only ninety-six minutes long, it means that for two-thirds of the running time we have no clue what we're supposed to be afraid of. That robs the picture of any suspense or terror, leaving it to just go through meaningless motions.
Making the problem worse is that The Bye Bye Man has palpably been watered down to get a PG-13 rating. There are a whole bunch of moments where something really awful happens that we don't fully get to see. One person, for instance, is blasted with a shotgun, yet there's not a drop of blood. Other potentially gruesome moments are cut away from. Horror movies don't need to be graphic to be good, but this one introduces disturbing ideas, then immediately runs from them, ensuring that you won't get a single decent shock from any of it.
Director Stacy Title, working from Jonathan Penner's weak screenplay, has trouble telling a coherent story. Characters abruptly know things they have no logical way of knowing. Elements are introduced out of nowhere, leading us to wonder where they came from. One of them is a police detective, played by Carrie-Anne Moss. She just shows up, is never introduced, and oddly displays signs of believing Elliot's claim that something supernatural is going on, despite there being no plausible reason for her to do so. She is the least competent police officer since the heyday of the Keystone Kops. Then again, such things are par for the course here.
The performances are stiff across the board. Straddled with underdeveloped material, the actors are left floundering. Even Dunaway, making a third-act cameo as the Exposition Character who outlines some (but not all) of the much-needed details about the Bye Bye Man, can't get through a scene without looking like she wants to kill her manager for booking such a bum deal.
The Bye Bye Man is ugly to look at and frustrating to watch. Everything about it feels slapped together by people who don't know what they're doing. Once the title character finally shows up in his own movie, you'll realize that the “bye bye” refers to your time and money, which have been irretrievably wasted.
( out of four)
The Bye Bye Man is rated PG-13 for terror, horror violence, bloody images, sexual content, thematic elements, partial nudity, some language and teen drinking. The running time is 1 hour and 36 minutes.
Buy a copy of my book, "Straight-Up Blatant: Musings From The Aisle Seat," on sale now at Lulu.com! Paperback and Kindle editions also available at Amazon.com!