I’ve seen The Bye Bye Man deemed everything from a failure to a “flick so bad a blind man would puke in his fedora while watching it.” Yeah, you know there was no chance in hell I was forgetting that quote. But is that disdain justified? Would this movie really disgust a blind man? I’d kind of like to see that… to be honest.
While I wouldn’t award The Bye Bye Man a rating higher than a 2.5 – perhaps a 3 if I’m feeling exceptionally rewarding… or forgetful – I don’t think I saw the same clunky pile of rubbish so many others did.
As for the general quality of the presentation itself, well, it’s pretty standard flashy flare. There’s a little bit of a budget behind the movie, which helps it to not feel like a Z-movie from hell. That said, it isn’t particularly beautiful, so don’t anticipate some Byzantium level optics. It looks and sounds respectable. Nothing more, nothing less.
In the movie Elliot and Sasha are an item, while John is Elliot’s life-long best friend. The three move into a pad with some sketchy history affixed. It takes very little time to learn of some of the nastiness that occurred in their home, it takes even less time to realize that there’s a supernatural force of some kind that seems to be attempting to manifest itself in physical form. Even if that isn’t its soul intention, it is most certainly eager to distort the realities of Elliot, Sasha and John to the point that inspires extreme paranoia and more frightening, ultraviolence. Things go bad as Elliot, Sasha and John are soon “saying” and “thinking” of The Bye Bye Man… and he’s becoming real as a result. To compound things, the more that know of The Bye Bye Man, the more powerful and resourceful he becomes. He could conceivably rack up quite the body pile in record time.
I don’t need to completely spoil the climax of the story. Chances are, you can formulate a pretty accurate guess as to what happens to these friends, and what, if any future The Bye Bye Man himself may have. The conclusion really isn’t terribly relevant in this case, anyway, as the brunt of the complaints about this one seem to be aimed at the entire film, not the final 15 minutes in particular.
But I’m wondering: where’s all this trash that everyone insisted I’d see?
The acting is horrible!
This complaint is about as cliché as it gets, but worse, it’s often inaccurate. In the case of this film, it’s most certainly inaccurate. I don’t think Douglas Smith, Cressida Bonas or Lucien Laviscount are going to win any serious awards for their efforts, but their efforts are apparent. They’re tryingThere are a few lines that feel a bit awkward, but that could easily be argued as a weakness in the script’s dialog as opposed to the work from the performers themselves. Everyone in the small ensemble is relatively green. Keep that in mind. Smith and Laviscount have some credits, but not consistently large productions that feature them in consistent lead roles. Bonas is a neophyte through and through. There’s no Christian Bale in this lineup. Daniel Day-Lewis didn’t get the call. I’m sure Bill Murray was out partying some place wonderful.
These are young adults, working actively, looking to refine their performances and sharpen their tools. And they do a fair job of building upon their skill sets here. The fact that none of these performers are going to go home with an Oscar doesn’t mean the acting was “sooooo horrible!” Stop whining. The acting was fair – not great or terrible, but fair. And you all know good and well, you’ve seen much, much worse.
The story is so stupid!
The story is repetition and snow ball effects. That’s what it is. It isn’t absurd that three college kids move into a rickety old house close to campus. That’s not absurd at all, in fact. That’s common fare. The supernatural elements of the story take to life quickly, and there are definitely a few inconsistencies that arise from time to time… but it’s supernatural horror about a “spirit” (for total lack of a better or more accurate term) that needs to be remembered and discussed to create as much terror and as many fatalities as possible. You know, it’s kind of how Freddy vs. Jason – a blast of a crossover flick – worked. Is that concept a little nutty? Yep. Just like most of the genre as a whole, it was a little nutty… but it didn’t push any offensive buttons, it just wasn’t all too inventive or terrifying.
I don’t even get what’s going on!
A supernatural villain is attempting to thrive and tear a small town apart, limb for limb… but it has to be remembered and it has to be discussed in order to take on enough power to make that happen.
What didn’t you get?
The Bye Bye Man looks so stupid!
Yeah, except he really doesn’t. The minimal black cloak type thing is creepy in that cultish way. It’s also simple, which is a plus. You overwork the visuals, you try to oversell the scare, and you end up empty handed with a forgettably dressed goof ball. This particular character – the lighting tweaks were interesting, and I’m completely on the fence there – wasn’t too elaborate, moved eerily enough thanks to Doug Jones’ brilliant physical performances, and has the potential to strike a little fear in those who don’t like pasty-skinned creepers. The villain design may not be a grand slam that Greg Nicotero rolled out as his career magnum opus, but we’ve seen some astoundingly bad creature designs, in comparison.
It was just a crappier version of It Follows!
No. No it wasn’t. Not only was It Follows a sharp enough picture to generate ambiguity and mystery, it wanted to do those things. It set out to leave you scratching your head. The Bye Bye Man isn’t even remotely near as abstruse. The Bye Bye Man knows what it wants to be, and after introducing the primary characters, it moves forward to attempt to be that film that yanks a boogeyman from the shadows for a town to see and subsequently fear and be slaughtered by. Most of us are still a little uncertain about what It Follows was truly about? Was it a societal statement on unsafe sex and sexually transmitted diseases, or was it something far less molded?
If you don’t know what The Bye Bye Man was, well… give it a second watch, I guess?
Here’s my final verdict: The Bye Bye Man was forgettable, and it wasn’t very frightening. It had a few unforgiving moments that I appreciated, and a subtle enough villain to inspire a nod of approval. The finale is bleak enough for my taste, though it could have been much, much more savage and shocking. The Bye Bye Man wasn’t bad, and it wasn’t good. It was a middle-of-the-pile kind of picture that was somehow mistaken as a movie every bit as bad as say… The Sickhouse, or The Fog remake.
I’ll re-watch The Bye Bye Man 1,000 times over again before you can force me to watch The Sickhouse OR The Fog ever, ever again.