By Nick Erickson, Staff writer
Over the last few years, there have been numerous films drawing heavy influence from 1980s horror classics. Many of these, including 2011’s “You’re Next,” pulled off the vibe successfully. Even the critically acclaimed Netflix series “Stranger Things” has managed to capture the essence of the time period and genre’s finest attribute. However, with every terrific bundle comes a couple of bad apples. In this case, director Stacy Title’s “The Bye Bye Man” is excruciatingly generic and even comically executed at times.
Setting up with a flashback to a scene of mass murder set in the 1960s, viewers are shifted to present day. Viewers are presented with an all-too-familiar scenario: college students staying at a new place, where a haunting occurs. In this case, three college students, Elliot (Douglas Smith), his girlfriend Sasha (Cressida Bonas), and his best friend John (Lucien Laviscount), have rented a house off-campus. After Elliot discovers the name of the title-character, the “Bye Bye Man,” and “don’t think it, don’t say it,” engraved on his nightstand, the friends attempt a seance. It’s not long before it all heads south, as the friends learn that you cannot say the entity’s name out loud, for if he hears his name, he possesses people to commit unthinkable actions.
While yes, it’s a rehashed-to-death premise, this will not deter many from watching. People just like to watch a horror movie simply for the jump scares (which there are plenty of in this film). However, these jump scares, which can be perceived as cheap, are the film’s only saving grace. Director Stacy Title (Let The Devil Wear Black) drags out the plot past it’s welcome. There are large chunks where things are rather slow and inactive. Fortunately, when things pick up, they are undoubtedly sure to stun, as all jump scares inevitably do. Outside of the jump scares, moments of uneasiness and genuine fright builds are far and few. There was a lot of potential instated within the film’s gritting opening flashback sequence, but once the overbearing cliches of the main cast and plot take shape, it halts.
The subjective downside to the action and actual “horror” bits all fall into the animation. When things turn violent, (shotgun wounds in one scene, for example) leave nary a trace of blood. Acting during these sequences is equally unbelievable, with characters wincing in pain awkwardly. The Bye Bye Man himself looks quite haunting, but his trusty sidekick – a skinless hound – is rendered so poorly by CGI, it’s laughable.
As aforementioned, “The Bye Bye Man” borrows elements from the horror greats before it. However, when a film brings virtually nothing new to the table, and throws in cheesy acting, graphics and a paper-thin plot, it’s a death sentence. There are spooks to be found in this film, but no more than one would find in a campfire ghost story, which is where a monster with such a name probably belongs.