close menu
THE BYE BYE MAN is Just Fine Fine, Man (Review)

THE BYE BYE MAN is Just Fine Fine, Man (Review)

I applaud any horror film that earnestly attempts to create a new monster or icon, and one that hires Doug Jones to play that selfsame character has got ambition to spare. But the thing about a good monster is having a compelling backstory, an intriguing mythology, and good characters to uncover that mystery. And this is where the two parts of The Bye Bye Man clash a bit. For having a great setting, a cool looking villain with an interesting power, and some decent scare moments, it feels sadly underdeveloped. Does that ruin the movie? Not entirely.

Directed by Stacy Title and written by her husband Jonathan Penner from the short story “The Bridge to Body Bay” by Robert Damon Schneck, The Bye Bye Man feels like it comes from a place of really trying to blow people away with a fresh horror concept, but somewhere along the way got lost and is only moderately successful. Part of it, surely, is the fact that it was edited down from R to PG-13, but I don’t like to be dogmatic about that. The main issue is that the troubling backstory to the titular demonic figure that is never really addressed. Oh, and we can all agree the name “The Bye Bye Man” is really dumb, right?

The movie concerns Elliot (Douglas Smith), a smart college student in Wisconsin, who’s moving in to a creepy old house in the middle of nowhere with his girlfriend Sasha (Cressida Bonas) and his super studly best friend John (Lucien Laviscount). The house is supposed to be fully furnished, but it’s just got a bunch of old and crappy furniture, including an end table with a drawer. Elliot and Sasha begin independently hearing weird noises, and during a housewarming party, Elliot hears coins drop onto the ground by the table. After opening the drawer, he sees someone has scrawled “Don’t think it, Don’t say it!” over and over on the drawer liner, but underneath is carved the words “The Bye Bye Man.”

Later that night their apparently psychic friend Kim (Jenna Kanell) does a seance with the roommates to cleanse the weird energy in the house, which leads her to repeat the mantra, and Elliot to say “The Bye Bye Man.” Obviously, this is bad, and all four of them start having hallucinations and getting sick. Elliot attempts to find out things about the Farewell Fellow and uncovers a nearly-forgotten case in the late-’60s of two murder sprees, evidently carried out in the name of the fiend. But how do you stop an evil that can’t even be thought about?

So, let’s start with what I like about the movie: there are quite a few good scare moments, and moments where you see, or think you see, the See Ya Later Bro somewhere in the frame. It’s very effective. The way he kills you is to infect your brain and drive you crazy before making you commit violence on your friends, and that is rife fodder for scary things. The hallucinations all seem realistic enough that it makes the audience question everything we’re watching, which is suitably disorienting.

the-bye-bye-man-review

The physical design of the Au Revoir Homme is also quite interesting, and naturally Doug Jones gives a really creepy and mannered physical performance. And on a broad level, the concept of an idea virus really works for me. It’s essentially death by meme; the more people hear about it, the stronger he gets and the more it grows in people’s minds. That is a very modern idea and one I’d like to see happen more.

Unfortunately, it’s not explored nearly enough. The actual mythology of the character is barely touched on, and almost none of it is explained. What are the significance of the coins, and why the constant dream imagery of a train? Other things that seem part and parcel to his MO are likewise never fleshed out. The trailers also show a lot of old pictures where we can see the Buzz Off Bucko in the background, and like none of that happens in the finished movie. All of that is a shame, because it just feels badly half-baked in execution, even though I’m sure more info exists in the filmmakers’ heads.

There are other plot threads that aren’t explored particularly well, and characters don’t get much development, but I really could have lived with those if we spent an adequate amount of time on the history and permeation of the Peace Out Padre. I compare it to that movie Oculus where Karen Gillan spends like ten minutes explaining the history of the accursed mirror and I was all on board. Give me a backstory and I’ll forgive a lot.

So, ultimately, despite some good scares, effective imagery, and good sense of tension, The Bye Bye Man doesn’t explain nearly enough to make it all truly work, and for a movie with a concrete evil, we need some kind of lore to hang our hats on. It’s better than a lot of January horror, but nothing more than that. Oh, also Faye Dunaway is in the movie for five minutes and I’m like whaaaaaaaaa?!?!

2.5 out of 5 Bye Byeritos
2.5 burritos

Images: STX


Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist. You can find his film and TV reviews here. Follow him on Twitter!

Todd Phillips Reveals First Look at Joaquin Phoenix in His JOKER Movie

Todd Phillips Reveals First Look at Joaquin Phoenix in His JOKER Movie

article
What Are Captain Marvel's Superpowers?

What Are Captain Marvel's Superpowers?

article
Toto's

Toto's "Africa" Gets a '50s-Style Cover from Postmodern Jukebox

article