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Friday, March 31, 2017

The Bye Bye Man

The Don't Bother, Man.

This review is also up at Channel 24.

What it's about

A guy moves into a new house with his girlfriend and best friend but when strange things start happening in the house and tensions rise between all three of them, it becomes evident that a powerful evil is residing among them.

What we thought

If you think that plot synopsis sounds generic, just wait until you've seen the film.

Drawing heavily from every haunted house thriller you could think of, along with everything from Nightmare on Elm Street to the Ring to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bye Bye Bad Man is a highly derivative horror flick that fails miserably to live up to even its humblest of inspirations. And the worst thing is that though it is an abject failure on every level imaginable, it's not even notably bad enough to be interesting on that level and nowhere near rubbish enough to be so bad that it's good. It's just... meh, taken to the extreme – which you might think would be an accomplishment in and of itself but, as it turns out, “meh” to the power of three hundred is still just “meh”.

The only thing remotely interesting thing about this barely made-for-DVD supernatural thriller is it's director Stacy Title, who not only holds the distinction of being one of the very, very few female directors out there to tackle the horror genre (Katherine Bigalow is the only other name I could think of, off hand) but that, after making a couple of not particularly noteworthy but perfectly OK films in the 1990s, she seems to come out of nowhere, roughly once every decade, with the kind of film that steadfastly refuses to make much of an impact on either critics or the box office.

That's honestly about it for the interesting aspects of the film. It does explain why the Bye Bye Man manages to come across as both the work of someone who has seen (and apparently made) enough horror films to know how to adequately put one together and yet has seen too many to actually come up with something even remotely fresh or original. For a filmmaker who works so rarely, you might expect something with a bit more of a personal touch but this is Horror 101.

Much worse than Title's solid but uninspired direction, though, is the script by her husband, Jonathan Penner, which is, bluntly, pretty wretched. The dialogue is clunky, while the plot makes less sense the more you think about it. This is also the sort of film that insists on having the characters read out the text of newspaper or notes out loud even in situations when no one in the real world would read them out loud or when the text is pasted boldly across the screen. Illiterate? No problem, they have you covered!

And if you think the acting saves things, well, you clearly haven't been paying attention so far. The performances here are variable, ranging from howlingly awful to a couple of decent thesps who look utterly confused as to how the hell they got involved in this mess in the first place. Sure, bad acting is something of a horror tradition but that only really works with g-grade horror flicks that are so utterly rubbish that they have a certain charm to them. Despite it's relatively low budget, the Bye Bye Man is just too adequately made for that.

As for the film's main baddie, the eponymous Bye Bye Man is a mix of the Gentlemen from the classic Buffy episode Hush, mixed with Freddy Kruger but significantly less scary than such a mix up might suggest. It's probably still one of the better things about the film, though – that is, until it's companion hellhound enters the frame to chew bits of the faces off his victims (why? Who knows? Who cares?) and its godawful CGI effects ruins everything.


When are horror filmmakers going to realise that nothing screws up the effectiveness of their films more than terrible CGI? Physical effects are always – and I mean always – more effective at eliciting scares. But then, if any film was going to represent the beginning of a sea-change for the genre, it certainly wasn't going to be anything this lazy, this generic, this uninspired.


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