The Bye Bye Man is a scary ghoul with a skinless dog, who stalks and kills anyone who speaks his name out loud. He can possess people, walk through walls and apparently hack the largest companies in the world. (The character has, somehow, scrubbed his name from Google.)
And he is, by far, the most logical thing in The Bye Bye Man.
The horror film feels off, as if along with the souls of the college kids in the movie, the bad guy made off with 20 pivotal minutes of film as well. There’s a lack of consistency, giving the impression that every scene was shot in one take, a few weeks apart from each other. Moments of humor fall flat, and crucial plot points are unintentionally hilarious.
Worst of all, it’s impossible to care about any of the characters, because they don’t care about themselves. Who, after seeing the reaper-like bad guy and his scabby hound in person, in a world where Courtyard by Marriotts exist, would return to their scary Bye Bye Man house at bedtime?
The Bye Bye Man begins, promisingly, with a flashback scene to 1969, where an apologetic journalist is taking a shotgun to anyone — including loved ones — who said the Bye Bye Man’s name. It looks like a halfway decent It Follows homage may be on the way.
But then we flash forward to the present, where three college students move into a giant house that could easily sleep an entire fraternity. One by one they say the name, and slip into a world of fear and paranoia.
Two flaws quickly emerge:
1. “Bye Bye Man,” while not a phrase one uses every day, is something everyone almost certainly will say at least once in their life. (“You sure you won’t stay and smoke another bowl?” “Naw, just want to beat traffic. Bye bye, man.”) Conservatively, 60 percent of the population would have been killed by this creature, and this would have made the news.
2. The students are such zeros, there’s very little investment in their survival. They don’t seem to work, study or do any meaningful volunteering. The only one with a real work ethic in this movie is the Bye Bye Man.
The film needed a lot of fixing, but there’s more to the problems than just the writing and directing. Some awkward edits of violence and sex scenes suggest the movie may have been spliced to ensure a PG-13 rating. The Bye Bye Man is the kind of mess that happened by committee.
There are a few not-horrible moments. Both flashbacks have a dark comic timing that the present-day scenes never get right. Some of the sequences with the Bye Bye Man (played with gangly menace by Doug Jones) are just weird enough to be interesting.
And Faye Dunaway and Carrie-Anne Moss show up in small parts, exuding more coolness in a couple of minutes than any of the young actors in the leads. Take all the millennials you want, Bye Bye Man, but don’t touch Trinity or Mommie Dearest.
The Bye Bye Man
☆ 1/2 (out of five)
Director: Stacy Title
Cast: Douglas Smith, Carrie-Ann Moss, Doug Jones, Faye Dunaway
Rated: PG-13 (terror, horror violence, bloody images, sexual content, thematic elements, partial nudity, strong languge, teen drinking)
Running time: 96 min.