Visuals / Camera
Pacing / Editing
Entertainment Value / X-Factor
Mood / Atmosphere
Don't Say It, Don't Speak It, Don't Watch It
Don’t say it, don’t think it
Don’t say it, don’t think it!
DON’T SAY IT, DON’T THINK IT!!
Better yet, don’t watch it in the first place. We’re talking of course, about The Bye Bye Man, the 2017 film that was advertised as a bit of a cash-in on horror like The Babadook and It Follows’ popularity, boasting a monster who could kill you if you said or even thought about its name.
Going into the movie, you may have been a bit skeptical about how such a premise would translate to the visual medium of film – after all, it would be a herculean task to keep reminding the audience that the BBM is constantly prying at a character’s thoughts without it being obtrusive and breaking the flow of the story. Thankfully, the film barely even attempts to work this angle, and instead glibly tells the audience at one point that you can’t not think about it.
So, when you take into account that not thinking about the Bye Bye Man isn’t even worth trying, you’re left with a fairly generic supernatural horror film in which people are actually driven to murder in order to stop people from talking about it and spreading its curse. What this curse does, exactly, is left fairly vague and honestly pretty non-threatening by a certain point. This is another film in which people turn out to be the real monster, but the way the plot plays out makes it seem like this fact is only due to the fact that the people in the film are all easily-rattled idiots.
It just feels like everything about this movie was a desperate cash grab that leaves nothing but a sour taste in your mouth by the time you’re finished watching the film. The characters are terribly generic and you won’t feel a connection with any of them. As a matter of fact, you may finish the film despising them. It’s sad when the only breath of fresh air is from a concerned brother, and a generic female detective.
We’re also given a plot that gives us absolutely nothing to go on. Granted, most of these supernatural horror flicks are terribly generic, and unfold in very similar ways, but this one breaks the mold. We get the typical library scene, in which the main character is trying to solve the mystery, desperately searching for clues, but we’re not even given anything other than another lame chance at a jump scare.
If you want to know why the Bye Bye Man is so scary, and why people fear him so much, you’re shit out of luck. After seeing a man going on a murderous rampage in the middle of a neighborhood, killing both his loves ones and neighbors alike, you’re naturally going to assume that the BBM is a significant threat, but we never find out why. Instead, he’s just an entity aimlessly killing people that say his name, and uses their fear as his own fuel ala Freddy Krueger. I guess just his name alone is enough to invoke fear powerful enough to fuel the entity.
Unfortunately, it’s another one of those films that also plays on the whole “We can’t trust what we’re seeing,” angle, which filmmakers use as a cheap opportunity to employ jump scares without actually progressing the story or threatening the main cast. Well, until it becomes convenient for them. Of course, the characters realize they’re having visions that have been put in their head by the Bye Bye Man, whom is apparently a mental assassin that’s trying to turn friend-against-friend.
Given this knowledge, you would think the characters wouldn’t play into these visions, especially when the main character figures out that BBM is powered by fear, and vows not to feed into it. After coming to this epiphany, the main character still falls victim to these visions, and plays into them, which leads to an ending that’s just as generic — if not more — than Lights Out.
To its credit, the film neither feels excessively draggy nor rushed, but it’s a very small redeeming factor when every beat in the story comes off as uneventful thanks to a mix of lazy soundtrack choices and an overall weak plot line. The college kids enter the house and explore, a random bit of exploration awakens the monster, the girl falls sick with what comes off as a common cold and the guys start seeing hallucinations (including such “disturbing” images as 5 or 6 maggots in a character’s hair, and the girl cheating on her boyfriend with his best friend), and after some very lackluster rising action they’re at each other’s throats until the lead stumbles across an exposition character (played by Faye Dunaway, in a shocking waste of a talented actress) who guides him into the final act.
The film looks decent enough, but the screenplay won’t make you care what’s happening, when our main cast consistently falls into every trap the Bye Bye Man has waiting for them, even when it seems to pose them no direct harm. You’ll know where the movie is leading you with every turn, you’ll groan as the characters’ own anger and lack of self-control gets them killed, you’ll wonder why exactly it’s worth murder to make sure the Bye Bye Man doesn’t spread, and from beginning to end, you’ll be on the edge of your seat in the hopes that you can say “bye bye” to the film soon.