Directed by Stacy Title [Other horror films: Hood of Horror (2006)]
Ever since I first saw the trailer to this one, I thought it looked pretty atrocious. A friend of mine saw it, and rather despised it. And I pretty much forgot about it until a guy at work recommended I watch it, and while I dilly-dallied in doing so, I finally sat down and got through this.
The best I can say about The Bye Bye Man is that it’s largely inoffensive. There’s really little here of major substance, and I found most of the content far more generic than I did anger-inducingly stupid (such as Stay Alive). To be sure, when that’s the best thing I can say about a movie, you know things aren’t working the way they should.
In all honesty, about half-way through the movie, it hit me that this reminded me of a poorly-made Syfy movie, only with a bigger budget. It had the same jump scares, the same feel, the same mediocrity that you might find in films such as Karma or The Night Before Halloween. It’s not like the movie is necessarily terrible, it’s just exceptionally bland and largely unremarkable.
Of the central performances, only Carrie-Anne Moss marginally intrigued me. Moss (who I know most from The Matrix and a recurring role in Jessica Jones, among other MCU Netflix shows) didn’t really have a lot of screen-time, nor did she ever do anything close to interesting, but she showed more promise than the cookie cutter characters the movie focused on.
Douglas Smith (who also, as random as this is, starred in Santa’s Slay), Lucien Laviscount, and Cressida Bonas made for rather uninteresting central characters. There’s a bit of a jealousy angle thrown in, but I never get the sense that we know these people well enough for any of this to really make an emotional impact.
Most of the other faces that show up are inconsequential, from Michael Trucco (Hush) and Jenna Kanell (Terrifier) to Cleo King and Leigh Whannell (Saw and Insidious). Whannell, for instance, was nice to see, but he also had a shotgun that, when it shot people, didn’t leave any blood, which was interesting. And to be fair, it’s not on any of these performances that the movie didn’t work, as I think most of them were just misused.
There was one face here, though, that caught me by surprise, and as such, I have to go on a side-topic for a moment. I am a man of many hobbies, and one of them is the reality show Survivor (which I’ve brought up before, such as my review on The Lights), and so, when Jonathan Penner showed up in a single scene, I was taken aback. Penner has been on three seasons of Survivor, his first being Cook Islands (the 13th season), and until now, I had no idea he was an actor (and he was also in Amityville 1992: It’s About Time, which I’ve got to see now).
His short scene (which I thought was amusingly typical of his somewhat smug attitude encapsulated well on Cook Islands) didn’t greatly change the movie, but it did give a nice little Easter egg. Also worth mentioning, Penner was married to the director, prior to her death in 2021.
Perhaps far more important than the performances would be the lore of the film, or perhaps, in this case, the lack thereof. What is the Bye Bye Man? From where did it arise? From when? Aside from the opening incident in the movie from the late 1960’s and the focal story of the movie itself, we don’t know anything about what else this thing has done. I would have liked some type of history on this thing.
Sure, sometimes that doesn’t matter – look at It Follows. The difference is that It Follows was a pretty decent movie most of the time, with some very suspenseful scenes now and again, whereas The Bye Bye Man just felt generic and sort of shallow from the get-go, and had they thrown in some type of history (maybe do that as opposed to sending Smith’s character to Whannell’s widow), it might have helped flesh things out a little.
The Bye Bye Man isn’t a movie I abhorred. It wasn’t good, of course, but I don’t think it was terrible. It was, however, very much a generic movie, and honestly, if I can remember this in four weeks, I’m a stronger man than I knew.