Probably the most disappointing thing about Stacy Title’s preposterously-titled horror flick is that it’s nowhere near as terrible as many will want it to be. Touting a few more good ideas than most of its early-Jan genre brethren, The Bye Bye Man is a bad film for sure, but ultimately just frustrating given the poor execution of a fairly compelling premise.
Elliot (Douglas Smith) and his attractive college housemates soon enough find themselves haunted by a malevolent entity whose name you’re neither supposed to think nor say: The Bye Bye Man. Doing either will allow him to toy with you until you inevitably end up doing something very horrible to yourself or others around you, as Elliot and co. try to convince the unafflicted of their predicament.
Yes, it’s basically just a mash-up of It Follows, A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Candyman, but it’s a simple premise that’s easily understood by the masses and can be conveyed cleanly visually without much need for rampant exposition. The idea of a relentless, seemingly unstoppable enemy is a fascinating one, though Garrett Riley’s script doesn’t nearly go far enough in demonstrating the desperate means to which Elliot and others should have gone to try and shake the beast from their psyches.
Title’s direction has its moments – especially a chilling opening sequence with few cuts and a cameo from Saw maestro Leigh Whannell – but for the most part sticks to familiar jump scares and low-light visuals. Performances from the principal youngsters are better-than-expected if nothing to write home about, while the presences of Carrie-Anne Moss and especially Faye Dunaway, who appears here in her first major screen role in over a decade, are extremely eyebrow-raising.
There are certainly moments to laugh at – a poorly-directed sequence in which a young woman is mowed down by a train in a thigh-slapping bout of unintentional comedy, and a poor child forced to deliver the line, “Daddy, you know I’m not a flashlight!” – but the prevailing feeling coming out of The Bye Bye Man is that with a sharper script, this could’ve been a pleasant surprise instead of surprisingly-not-one-star.
You could certainly do worse overall, but it’s in no way a good film. It just speaks to January’s standards that I’m shocked it wasn’t a lot more awful.
The Bye Bye Man is in cinemas now