Saturday, 14 January 2017

The Bye Bye Man (2017) - Horror Film Review

I first heard of The Bye Bye Man two days ago when I had a look at the latest cinema releases for my local. It made sense that some sort of horror would come out on Friday 13th, yet part of me knew seeing the title of this that it would likely not be very good.

Students Elliot (Douglas Smith), his best friend John (Lucien Laviscount), and his girlfriend Sasha (Cressida Bonas) move into an old house. Elliot discovers some strange writing scrawled in a bedside table that says 'don't think it, don't say it' over and over again, then under that he sees 'The Bye Bye Man' scratched into the wood of the table. He thinks it strange and mentions it to his friends, but it isn't much longer when they realise the danger they have exposed themselves too. A dark figure is stalking the group, knowing his name and thinking about it gives him power and gives him greater abilities to cause deadly hallucinations. It wants it's name spread so that it's power can increase, so the group have to find a way to defeat him without being able to tell anyone else about what is going on.

My expectations for this horror were low and so I was desperate to see some redeeming features. It starts off really well, a prologue set in the late 1960's in which a desperate man is killing off everyone who knows the name of the evil he has realised is haunting him in order to protect the world. At several other points in the film this story is revisited, each time it was pretty interesting. The main story that takes place in modern day is not so interesting to watch though. The three main characters don't have much of a character to them, there is some sexual tension between John and Sasha which was played well, this feeds into the later paranoia the Bye Bye Man causes. Other than that they are pretty bland and inoffensive, aside from the jock John who is full of bro talk. A scene in which he is late to a philosophy class, then when he does arrive immediately starts browsing his phone just sums up what a tedious stereotype his character is.

The main complaint with The Bye Bye Man is how unoriginal it all feels, it's best moments feel like they have been cribbed from other more successful films. This itself was based off the story The Bridge to Body Island and so maybe that source material is to blame. Also despite only just coming out the movie was actually made two years ago and so some comparisons may be incidental. Saying that I got strong vibes of The Boogeyman, Final Destination, It Follows, Sinister and The Ring watching this. The problem is that (with the exception of The Boogeyman) they are all far superior films and so this always pales in comparison to those. It's bad enough to have a film seem similar to another, but when you have a real Frankenstein's monster of a film such as this then the alarm bells do ring.

A being who is able to induce hallucinations is a neat idea, it means rather than some sort of monster causing the craziness victims themselves end up doing terrible things. Whether this is them killing those around them who have come to hear the deadly name (doing so in a strange form of protecting the supernatural cancer from spreading), or unwittingly causing their own death by seeing things that aren't there. The problem of nobly killing everyone who knows the name is that aside from paranoia and hallucinations the Bye Bye Man doesn't really do much, I didn't see why it was so imperative to stop him using such drastic means. The second method works a lot better, best seen when one victim hallucinates a car crash on some train tracks, they rush to help not realising that not only is there no car crash there, but also a speeding train is fast approaching. At times the viewer gets tricked into seeing fake things also, one point towards the end in particular gave an effective WTF moment.

The monster of this film is a hooded, scarred man and his mutant dog, they are revealed far too early in this, and they don't even look that great. The dog has CGI layered all over him, the man would not look out of place in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There are some jump scares used but they are badly placed and never worked. I also had some plot holes regarding this being that I never felt were explained, while the half hearted effort Elliot makes to erase its name is pitiful (such as deciding to throw the table drawer with it's name written on in a nearby pond rather than say, destroy it). It seemed like it was all going to finish on one twist but that is wimped out on and an almost identical one is instead used. I will admit the idea that this being is the secret driving force behind atrocities such as school shootings was kind of neat but there is too much philosophical musings to have this fact come out in the movie well.

I didn't find The Bye Bye Man to be boring and it did have it's moments, in particular the whole 'don't think it, don't say it' mantra stood out to me. However the monster of the piece felt so corny and powerless and so whenever the plot inevitably moved back to it I felt underwhelmed and wished that rather than just copy other films this had put more effort into feeling unique.


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