Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Bye Bye Man

1.5/4

Starring: Douglas Smith, Lucien Laviscount, Cressida Bonas, Cleo King, Jenna Kanell

Rated PG-13 for Terror, Horror Violence, Bloody Images, Sexual Content, Thematic Elements, Partial Nudity, Some Language and Teen Drinking

Don't think of a pink elephant in a tutu!

You thought of one, didn't you?  Don't worry, I'm not holding it against you.  It's how our brains are wired.  "The Bye Bye Man" seeks to use this as the gimmick for scares, but it does so in a slapdash fashion.  The concept, where being scared of the villain gives him more power and telling someone about it spreads it like a virus, has promise.  But the screenplay is in desperate need of another run through the computer.  Or two.

Elliot (Smith) is a college student who has just signed a lease on a house with his girlfriend Sasha (Bonas) and lifelong best friend (Laviscount).  After the housewarming party, Sasha's psychic friend Kim (Kanell) performs a séance that ends badly.  Weird things start happening: Sasha gets sick, John is hallucinating, and Elliot has visions that his two housemates are sleeping together.  When Elliot discovers that someone has written "Don't Say It, Don't Think It" over and over again in his drawer, he begins to realize that he and his friends are the targets of a mysterious monster known as The Bye Bye Man.  Not only does fear increase his power, telling anyone about it makes them a target.

Done right, this concept could lend itself to some intense psychological horror.  But it isn't done well.  It's badly written, acted and constructed.  The rules of how The Bye Bye Man operates aren't clearly established.  A clearer explanation of his abilities would have given the film a firmer foundation.  Scenes appear to have been left on the cutting room floor as well, as character relationships are stronger than we realize.  This kind of sloppiness is perhaps par for a January release (although not excusable).

The best acting is done by those with small parts.  The main trio is awful.  Douglas Smith is wooden, Lucien Laviscount blends into the background, and Cressida Bonas is just horrible.  Jenna Kanell has some nice moments as the earthy psychic, but then she goes over-the-top.  The adults are the best of the bunch, with character actors like Michael Trucco, Cleo King and Carrie-Anne Moss taking supporting roles.  Faye Dunaway has an "important" cameo as the one who knows everything that's going on, but she's bad too.  Is the once legendary actress so hard up for work that she has to take roles in crap like this to pay the bills?  I mean, everyone's got to eat, but appearing in a bad teen horror flick is just embarrassing.

The bottom line with "The Bye Bye Man" is that it's a failure.  It's not scary and it's not interesting.  I could claim that attempts to get a PG-13 rating (which couldn't be more obvious) are to blame.  Sex scenes are awkwardly cut and a character suffers a direct blow from a shotgun and while their body dents a wall, it's bloodless.  Mistakes like that make the movie feel dishonest and artificial, which take the audience out of the film's grip.  However, more gore and nudity can't make up for the film's other problems.  The best thing to do with "The Bye Bye Man" is to just say "See Ya" and go watch something else.

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