I imagine many people reacted the same way I did when I first saw the trailer for a film titled The Bye Bye Man – by laughing and mocking and questioning why someone thought that title was a good idea. Well, after having seen the film that bears that laughable title, I was able to extend that mockery to every other element of this film’s production. The Bye Bye Man is so immediately recognizable as a bad movie that within fifteen minutes one is forced to start considering if it is worth watching as something to enjoy with friends as a joke. But no, while it is incompetently made and has bad acting, it can’t quite even get being a good-bad movie right as it too often sways into boring territory. Let’s explore what makes The Bye Bye Man absolutely not worth watching. Don’t see it, don’t buy it!
The Bye Bye Man is about three college kids who move into a house near campus and just want to have a normal college life until some weird things happen in the house and they discover the words “The Bye Bye Man” written inside a bedside table. Learning his name leads to the Bye Bye Man, a hooded figure with long fingers and a spooky dog, terrorizing them psychologically. Apparently the Bye Bye Man gains power over them the more they think about him, so in order to combat him, the students often repeat the mantra “Don’t think it, don’t say it,” but the film’s unclear rules of how the Bye Bye Man actually works frequently get in the way of their quest to avoid him. Eventually the students come to the conclusion that the only way to stop the Bye Bye Man is to rid the world of every mention of his name, but it might be too late to stop him!
The Bye Bye Man feels like a film that was made in order to cut a trailer that would get people into the theater and take their money before they realized how terrible the actual film is. There are very distinct trailer-y moments in the film that have an off-putting visual style and add nothing to the scene they are in, but if used in a trailer, might look just impressive enough to swindle some January horror watchers. It even has an intriguing first 5 minutes or so, with a well-crafted long take that swoops around a house while a guy takes a shotgun to his neighbors. That is just long enough to lull the audience into the idea that this might not actually be the terribly edited, poorly acted, needlessly confusing, jump-scare laden waste of time that it ends up being.
Nearly every acting performance in this film is embarrassingly atrocious. From the little girl barely eking out her lines in a timing that fails to seem like it even emulates how humans talk to Faye Dunaway, who they very clearly had on set for one day and just told “Alright Faye, sit in this chair and we’ll get the whole scene done in like three hours. You get your money and we get some name recognition on this otherwise pointless trash fire we are putting together. Oh, wait, that’s right, we also have a tired-looking and totally unenthusiastic Carrie-Anne Moss to film later. Wow, this film is really shaping up to be something people will deride!” The heavy lifting for the film, acting-wise, is given to the three leads, Elliot, John, and Sasha, played by Douglas Smith (“Big Love”), Lucien Laviscount (“Coronation Street”), and Cressida Bonas, appearing in her film debut (and hopefully also her final film). The audience is forced to spend so many useless scenes with oppressively bad dialogue between these three characters that by the time the Bye Bye Man enters the film we are either asleep (a merciful way to exit this film and one that, while I didn’t have the luxury to engage in, I would wholeheartedly recommend as a much better use of one’s time) or so disengaged that we actively root against them just so something will happen that isn’t them sitting around and talking.
In addition to having terrible actors as the leads, the film neglects to really give those actors actual characters to portray. It is like a 6-year old’s puppet show using humans and a small town in Ohio. Every character in the movie just feels like a prop that needs to be used to get from this location to that location and then eventually whoop, here’s the Bye Bye Man and heh, someone dies or something. The puppetiest character in the film is Sasha, who, I imagine in an early version of the script was just named “girl.” She is only there so Elliot can experience conflicts – be they jealousy, concern, or more jealousy. You can almost hear the 6-year old telling the story of why Sasha is there: “Sasha is a pretty girl and both Elliot and John like her, but she is Elliot’s girlfriend and they are in loooove, but John is cute and Sasha kinda likes John but she also likes Elliot. But she gets sick and Elliot takes care of her and then she isn’t sick anymore. Oh and Elliot tells her to go talk to the flower guy, whose name is Mr. Daisy and she talks to him, but Elliot takes too long at the library and she gets a ride home with John, but Elliot sees them hug and he is mad. Bye Bye Man!” All of that happens in the movie. Elliot and John are dumb alpha bros and Sasha is a dumb piece of cardboard that spends most of the film laid up in bed with a cold while all the characters make stupid choices about how to handle the revelation of this curse they might have stumbled onto.
Jump Scare! Oh, did that not work? I learned from the The Bye Bye Man that if you just stop what you are doing to throw in a completely unearned and usually false scare, you too can have the honor of getting your film dumped into the January graveyard. While this is still a symptom of that trailerification/puppetshow aspect of the film, the idea that this is a horror movie, which presumably means that there should be scares or frights or tension or spookiness in it, seems to have been completely lost on the people in charge of making it. Perhaps after it was done, they looked at it and thought that it should have something scary, so they just randomly inserted a couple of scenes where a loud sound tries to catch the possibly-half-asleep audience off guard and called it a day. Because there is nothing in this film that is scary. There is nothing that really even mimics scary. Well, to be fair, I guess the idea that this film cost 7 million dollars to make and made nearly 24 million back is pretty scary, so I am giving the movie less credit than it deserves.
Part of the reason the scares and the dialogue and the pacing and the scenes and the film as a whole don’t work is the jarring cuts and baffling structural editing decisions. Some scenes feel like they end mid-sentence so that we can just start another pointless conversation between alpha bro and girl in a different part of the house. Perhaps I should see that as the editor trying to take mercy on the audience. I imagine poor Ken Blackwell sitting at his desk looking at his calendar of upcoming projects and thinking “Well, the script for this 6-year old’s puppet show has this scene that went on long enough and never really added anything, but they didn’t really shoot any connecting tissue for these transitions to make sense, so maybe if I just use disorienting jump cuts, I can at least try to get people to talk about the film. Yes! It worked! I have transitioned from a boring talking in the kitchen about the Bye Bye Man scene to a talking in the bedroom about the Bye Bye Man scene. Blackwell Out!” Other than the jarring stuff, there are these problems with how the film feels overall with questionable decisions to intercut things that add nothing to the story with scenes of one of the characters finally actually trying to learn something about the mythology of the main villain. It just doesn’t work at all.
Speaking of the mythology of the main villain, I am still slightly confused by just a few things. So, The Bye Bye Man has a really horrible looking CG dog that eats the faces of the people who are killed by those afflicted by knowing the name “Bye Bye Man” after he makes them see things that aren’t there. Sometimes he makes people kill their friends and family, sometimes he makes people kill themselves by having them run onto train tracks in front of a train. Sometimes he scares them by showing up in the middle of the night to make them feel a little uneasy. Sometimes they can’t trust what they see, but if they “don’t think it, don’t say it” then his powers are more limited. If his name is still unknown to people, but it is written in a drawer in a house, he can coerce people to find the name by making a coin appear near the table. But, also before they know his name, he can open doors and make spooky things happen in the house that table is in, but he doesn’t really interact with the people directly. Why does he use a coin? Why is he more powerful at night? Is his goal for people afflicted by knowing his name to kill people, to kill themselves, or to spread his name around? Why would seeing the Bye Bye Man in his cloak and accompanied by his dog be more scary than seeing things that aren’t actually there that make one act violently toward people they love? Why does it sometimes seem like his powers are more like a hypnosis-type thing and other times they are more subtle or more direct? Where did the Bye Bye Man come from? Why is his face all scarred up? Why does he have long fingers? Could it actually be successful to not think it and not say it after hearing the name? How powerful is the “Don’t think it, don’t say it” mantra? If the Bye Bye Man compels you to tell people about his name, why didn’t the guy in the flashback at the beginning of the film tell his wife about him when he told some random neighbor friend? Why was this film made?
Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Clarity/Detail: The opening shots, set in the 60s are the high-water mark in the film and while it never gets back to that level of clarity or color definition, it is easy to make out most of what is going on, even in the darker spots.
Depth: The film is a bit flat.
Black Levels: Black levels are good, with no noticeable crushing, even with a lot of night scenes.
Color Reproduction: The palette outside of the flashback scenes and a couple day scenes is limited to dark browns and greens, but with most of it somewhat hard to really make out, what is there seems fine.
Flesh Tones: Fleshed out.
Noise/Artifacts: Clean and Noiseless, with no noticeable artifacting.
Audio Format: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Dynamics: There are some good sound details to be found in the film. The sound team did a good job.
Low Frequency Extension: Not a lot of use here, but when there are low sounds, they sound right.
Surround Sound Presentation: Good surround presentation, with effects doming in clear and where they sound like they should be.
Dialogue Reproduction: If one is unlucky enough to have to experience the dialogue in this film, it can at least be said that it comes in nice and clear.
Comes with an HD Digital Copy of the Film
The problem with making a film that is so desperate to make its money back that it shoves all the interesting things into the trailer and then rearranges them randomly into a messy pile of garbage in the film itself is that once you have swindled the January horror crowd, there is no more buy in. Word of mouth, reviews, and everything that could make your film worth something on the home market have already shut down that pathway, so STX and Universal should just be happy that it made a little in theaters. I mean they didn’t even try to put like an interview with the cast on this disc. There is no reason to see this movie and there is no reason to get this Blu-ray. Don’t see it, don’t buy it!