Well, ladies and gentleman, we are officially in January; the holiday hangovers have started to let up and New Year’s resolutions are starting to fail. January is also infamously known as the movie dumping ground because of the utter garbage that the New Year has to offer. With virtually no competition, studios can easily make their money back no matter the quality of their product. The Bye Bye Man is just another notch in January’s belt, providing a sloppy story that was obviously the victim of studio intervention.
The Bye Bye Man stars Douglas Smith, Lucien Laviscount, and Cressida Jones as three college friends who buy a home together. Elliott (Smith) and Sasha (Jones) are a couple while John (Laviscount) is the third wheel, although it seems like he may also be into Sasha as well.
In his room, Elliot finds a mysterious nightstand that says, ‘Don’t say it. Don’t think it” all over it. Underneath, it just has one name: The Bye Bye Man. When Sasha starts to see and hear strange things, she invites her psychic friend, Kim(Jenna Kanell), to investigate (despite both Elliot and John being skeptics). When they perform a seance, Kim suddenly becomes possessed and says, “Don’t think it, don’t say it” over and over again. From that moment, they are terrorized by disturbing hallucinations and urges that lead them over the edge.
The film starts off on the right foot, trying to give some background to the lore. It begins in 1968 with a reporter, Larry Redmon (Leigh Whannell), brutally murdering anyone who might have said “The Bye Bye Man’s” name. The silence is deafening and makes those five minutes feel legitimately scary.
But then, it shifts to present day and turns into a cliche PG-13 horror with dumb teenagers and a disappointing villain. The Bye Bye Man looks like Freddy Kruger and Emperor Palpatine’s lovechild. Doug Jones has played many iconics monsters, such as Abe Sapien and the Pale Man, but he was given nothing to do in this film. He just waves his dainty finger around and stands awkwardly in the corner like an angsty teenager. And, to make it worse, there’s nothing remotely interesting about him. Throughout the film, there are hallucinations and murder thrown in but there’s no reason why. On screen, the scenes are intriguing, but they’re immediately forgotten and make the audience more confused. The writers fail to create proper lore and exposition and instead make messy jump scares that seem more confusing.
In order to really conjure up fear for this bogeyman, that would have required some passable performances. Unfortunately, there are none to be found; Smith’s bug eyes and Jones’ annoyingly wispy voice make the audience laugh rather than shiver. I’m sure half of the budget went to paying for Faye Dunaway and Carrie Ann Moss’s mortgage bills, leaving just enough money to import the Bye Bye Man’s blood hound from a Playstation 2 memory card.
Honestly, if this went down the Ouija route and got a prequel, that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. There is a story here but it needs a better writer and director to flesh out the scenes and characters. (and perhaps an R rating). We shouldn’t be praying for cheap jump scares to move the story along.