Stacy Title’s The Bye Bye Man is a horror movie that exists only because a Friday the 13th was coming up. With the doldrums of winter moviegoing ramping up, Title’s half-baked horror flick is what we’re left with. It’s a pity, too, since there are moments where I wanted to like The Bye Bye Man, even in spite of its chintzy budget and amateurish acting. The opening is somewhat interesting, with the film’s attraction toward a more cerebral, atmospheric type of horror that is always welcome. It’s just that the movie has nothing to sustain it — no interesting characters, no clever scares and definitely nothing close to an original idea to bring to the table.
The Bye Bye Man is little more than a scary-movie checklist, with a handful of unintentional laughs, and little amusing or entertaining going for it. Even if you’ve seen only a handful of horror movies, you’ll know exactly where Title’s film is headed. The only twist, really, is The Bye Bye Man has updated the old haunted house trope for renters, as the film focuses on three college students who unleash holy terror only because they’re sick of living in dorms. Elliott (Douglas Smith), his girlfriend Sasha (Cressida Bonas) and his best friend John (Lucien Laviscount) move into a run-down, creepy old house. It’s not haunted, per se, until Elliott finds the name “Bye Bye Man” scrawled into a nightstand and all types of supposedly creepy and psychologically confusing things begin to happen.
The idea here is that Elliott has awoken some type of ancient evil in our titular Bye Bye Man, summoning him (in a notion ripped from a million urban legends and horror movies like Bernard Rose’s Candyman) simply by saying his name. One problem — among many, many problems — is that The Bye Bye Man (Doug Jones) isn’t very interesting as a movie monster. He’s pallid and walks around with a poorly done CGI hell hound, but he never actually does anything. He’s certainly not creepy or — for a movie that leans heavily on atmosphere — an effective antagonist. And he’s certainly not memorable.
I suppose you could make the argument that Title and company simply don’t have the budget for a quality horror film, but horror is the genre most equipped to thrive with little money. There’s a lack of cleverness on display here, one that keeps The Bye Bye Man from ever achieving … well, anything. It sets out to spin its wheels for 100 minutes and does that and only that. There are no scares, there is no gore and there is definitely zero subversion at play here, making for a horror flick that’s listless, dull and brain-dead. Rated PG-13 for terror, horror violence, bloody images, sexual content, thematic elements, partial nudity, some language and teen drinking.
Now Playing at Carmike 10, Epic of Hendersonville and Regal Biltmore Grande.