Monday, January 16, 2017
THE BYE BYE MAN Makes the 2017 Horror Forecast Look Really Bleak
I was really kinda hoping to kick off the new year with a great horror movie, or even a decent one. Last winter 10 Cloverfield Lane was a pleasant surprise in the first quarter of 2016, coming to theaters at a time when we're usually shivering from the dearth of quality films. Then came THE BYE BYE MAN, a horror helmed by a woman director (Stacy Title) that, despite its Candyman knockoff premise, could have fooled us all and been a smart, shocking, layered film. But, it was none of those things (and Candyman has nothing to worry about).
So, here we are; starting 2017 with a movie about a trio of college students in Wisconsin (played by actors whose names really don't matter here) who gets spooked by a phantom villain that only they can see, The Bye Bye Man. The premise expands like this: The Bye Bye Man is a boogeyman (of sorts) whose strength is determined by your belief in him. Their fear in him only makes him bigger, closer, and more dangerous. Further, he comes whenever they say his name (which, like Ouija boards, kinda kills the element of surprise). And coincidentally, he looks like The Reaper, because his presence will be the last thing they see. Get it? It's supposed to be scary.
And it would be, if it wasn't so ridiculous. We've seen terrifying boogeymen and Ouija boards in classic horror like Halloween, The Exorcist, etc. That's not the problem. The actual look of the Reaper is also appropriately ominous, and the fact that he can disguise himself as any one of these friends can be creepy. But here's the issue: it's basic. A group of millenials are plucked off one by a boogeyman who they learn responds to the mention of his name, and...they keep calling on him. Despite repeating the chant, "Don't think it. Don't say it," they for some reason still find it impossible to neither think or say his name (I can see not being able to think of him when strange things are happening around you, but they should really have no problem with avoiding saying his name. It's a dumb name anyway). And of course, each of these lead characters do a lot of nonsensical things (THE BYE BYE MAN is riddled with about one hundred eyeroll-inducing horror movie cliches, including the airhead blonde whose contribution seems to be as hollow, useless, and scantily clad as possible. Not to mention, there's a love triangle storyline that seems to only serve as a way to sexualize the one woman among the trio. Ugh).
It gets more frustrating as the film progresses, because both the audience and the characters know what's going on (well, only one of them seems truly convinced). So really, we're all just waiting around for what we expect to happen. And it does. So what's the point? There's not even an allegory to which we could cling. It's just...empty.
P.S. Not even the great Faye Dunaway (who makes a thankless appearance in the film) can save this.
Rating: F (no stars)