“THE BYE BYE MAN” — 1 ½ stars — Douglas Smith, Lucien Laviscount, Cressida Bonas; PG-13 (terror, horror violence, bloody images, sexual content, thematic elements, partial nudity, some language and teen drinking); in general release
We can learn many lessons from “The Bye Bye Man.”
First, never move into a creepy mansion with your beautiful girlfriend and bodybuilder best friend, especially if you are a lanky writer with jealousy issues.
Second, never buy secondhand furniture from a mass murderer.
Last, and most important, never go see horror movies with January release dates.
So three college students move into a creepy, mysterious mansion in Wisconsin. It’s creepy because it is virtually empty save for some old furniture piled up in the cellar. It’s mysterious because somehow its tenants can afford to live there without paying jobs.
Elliot (Douglas Smith) is the ringleader of the trio, so he discovers the old nightstand with the words, “Don’t think it. Don’t say it,” scribbled all over its inside, crazy person style. After a housewarming party, Elliot, his girlfriend/roommate Sasha (Cressida Bonas), his best friend/other roommate John (Lucien Laviscount) and token spiritual medium friend/creepy girl Kim (Jenna Kanell) have a séance. Elliot utters the name, “Bye Bye Man,” and like Beetlejuice on a bad bender, director Stacy Title’s token boogeyman starts having his supernatural way with everyone.
After a few frightening if clichéd moments, “Bye Bye Man” goes bye-bye as its frights quickly enter the realm of nonsensical and borderline goofy. The central idea is that the Bye Bye Man exists in the hallucinating minds of his victims, spreading like a disease whenever his name is mentioned aloud until someone goes just crazy enough to kill everyone who is “contaminated.” There’s also some stuff about coins dropping on the floor, scratching noises and a muddled train metaphor, but the more you think about this one, the bigger a mess it becomes.
The film's greatest accomplishment might be conjuring up Carrie-Anne Moss and Faye Dunaway for supporting roles more than halfway into the film. But their presence acts as more of a distraction than a boost, as audiences lose track of what the veteran actresses are saying because they are thinking, “Why is Faye Dunaway suddenly in this movie?”
The film’s biggest weakness may be its namesake, essentially a guy in white makeup and a hooded coat who hangs around with a badly rendered CGI monster dog. The character seems to exist without context or back story, and looming in the shadows from time to time, beckoning with a bony Ghost of Christmas Future hand, he feels like a placeholder for something that is supposed to be scary.
Still, the worse a horror film gets, the more entertaining it can become, and at times “Bye Bye Man” threatens to have some real fun. But ultimately Title just digs her narrative hole way too deep and stretches of awkward expository dialogue aren’t able to make sense of the mess onscreen. Unless this one pops up on late night cable and you have the “right” kind of crowd, the best advice for “The Bye Bye Man” may be don’t think it, don’t say it … and don’t watch it.
“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; running time: 96 minutes.
Points for parents
By Shawn O'Neill
• Violence: A man uses a shotgun to kill multiple people. A train hits three naked people facing away from the train. A dog is seen chewing on the head of a dead body twice in the film. A man drinks drain cleaner. A woman runs in front of a train and is killed. A woman hangs up the phone and walks away from her two dead children with a knife in her hand. A woman is hit by a car and the car rolls over. A man strikes another man with a baseball bat. A man shoots his roommate. A man shoots himself.
• Gore: Some faces are seen with blood coming from their eyes and mouths. A skinless dog sticks its head out of a closet. The dog is fully exposed in other scenes. A cut and bloodied woman is following a man. A woman washes blood off of her hand. A woman dies from a gunshot wound. A bloodied woman sitting under a tree rolls over dead.
• Language/sexuality: There are a few uses of profanity including an F-word. There is a reference to a bodily function. A woman is seen in her underwear. Two people are shown to be in bed together naked but nothing sexual is shown.
• Thematic elements: A psychic cleansing is performed and a seance also occurs.
Joshua Terry is a freelance writer and photographer who appeared weekly on "The KJZZ Movie Show" from 2013 to 2016. He also teaches English composition for Weber State University. Find him online at facebook.com/joshterryreviews.