The horror genre often gets bashed on because for many years, barely a good one was released. It was either gorefests that ripped off Saw or cheap found footage jobs that ripped off Paranormal Activity. Yet you might not have noticed it, but the genre has had a bit of renaissance recently. This is mainly down to the independent scene, but over the last few years we’ve had the likes of The Witch, It Follows and Lights Out, all great movies that pack in the scares. So we now have real reason to be optimistic when a horror movie is released, but will that be rewarded with The Bye Bye Man?
College students Elliott (Douglas Smith, Vinyl), Sasha (Cressida Bonas, Tulip Fever) and John (Lucien Laviscount, Honeytrap) move into a new house, though find it a little creepy. And those fears are proven correct when Elliott discovers text in the basement which reveals a monster that gets more powerful the more that you think about it.
So let me get this straight, I like the idea behind the monster. It’s one of those simple ideas that is secretly genius. A monster where the more you think about it, the more powerful it gets. You may be feeling a bit sarcastic and saying to yourself, ‘Well you’d just stop thinking about’, but try to stop thinking about something. Seriously, you try to stop thinking about something right now. It’s incredibly difficult. So there is some real material here to be mined as characters try to banish the thought of the monster that is trying to kill them off. There could be some incredibly intense scenes as the Bye Bye Man closes in on someone desperately trying to forgot about the words he saw earlier in the movie. But of course, you have to execute an idea and not just come up with it. That’s the problem.
First off the non-existent acting. This is just an atrocious arrangement of performances that should be on display in every acting school to show everyone exactly what not to do if you get cast in a movie. No one here is trying and they give the bare minimum you get away with. And that goes especially for Cressida Bonas. I don’t know what direction she is given in this movie, but it isn’t giving her any favours. Even when confronted with the most horrible of circumstances, her emotions barely rise to to a ‘meh’ level. It’s one of the worst performances I have witnessed in a movie for a long while.
And that great conceit, the one that I think has plenty of potential? Squandered. Maybe it’s not the right fit for a horror film, it might actually serve better in a book than it does on screen, but it feels like they are focusing on the wrong stuff. The idea of the Bye Bye Man is essentially a virus, where most of the characters seem focused on stopping the idea of this monster spreading than they do on stopping it. This feels weird because viruses in themselves are not scary, the effects of them are. So it is focusing on the wrong part of human fear and so it ends up failing at scaring us.
And yes, that is the basic problem with this movie, it isn’t scary at all. You can tell this is going to be an especially terrible brand of humour when it completely and utterly fails at trying to do a false jump scare at the start. I mean, if you can’t make people jump in their seats with a loud noise, you must be utterly pathetic at making horror movies. Then if you think this movie isn’t bad enough, the monster shows up. The Bye Bye Man is basically a terrible cosplay of a Cenobite from Hellraiser, which is crap enough to begin with but then his dog shows up. This a terrible CGI creature which is basically the hellhounds you see from the first Resident Evil game, and is actually in the same res. It’s laughably bad.
And coincidentally, that is the one good thing about the movie. It does get laughably bad, so you can get some enjoyment out of that. Some of the scenes get so awful, so atrocious that you can’t help but laugh at the idea that someone somewhere presumably thought it was scary. I’ve mentioned that CGI dog before, but I don’t think I’ve made it clear how bad that thing looks, yet it’s treat like it is the most terrifying thing you’ve ever witnessed. So yes, you can have some fun with this movie if you get a little tipsy and realise this makes a better comedy than it does a horror.
But The Bye Bye Man is trying to be a horror movie, not a comedy, and that is what I must rate it on. And because of that, I have to say it’s one of the worst movies of the year. It fails to deliver a single scare, it doesn’t even make you slightly tense in your seat. It’s just a movie that relies on incredibly old set pieces and clichés, expecting you to be looking at the screen through your fingers. Instead, you’ll be watching on the floor, because that’s where you’ll be from all the laughing.