by Emily Reuben
When I first saw the trailer for the new horror film, The Bye Bye Man, it gave the impression that the Bye Bye Man himself would be a stalker-esque figure that preyed on the main cast. This is not exactly the case, as the ominous Bye Bye Man is little more than an underdeveloped shadow of more threatening and iconic horror characters.
The film features three remarkably dull college students seeking to rent a home near their college campus. Playing off of the “old, creepy house” trope, the three settle on a comically large home to inhabit during the school year, and soon enough, scary hijinks ensue.
A villain with no purpose
The rampant inconsistencies and lack of explanation…leads to more questions than scares.
The cause of these strange events stem from a supernatural creature simply known as The Bye Bye Man. His shtick is simply to drive those who say his name into insanity. His power grows when his name is uttered, prompting the saying, “don’t think It, don’t say it”, which becomes progressively more irritating as it is repeated throughout the film. When a person simply hears or sees The Bye Bye Man’s name, they become cursed with startling illusions, and eventually the Bye Bye Man himself appears, accompanied by his horrible CG dog.
At least, that is what is initially presented as the plot. The rampant inconsistencies and lack of explanation regarding the scope and extent of the Bye Bye Man’s powers leads to more questions than scares. The film very clearly demonstrates that The Bye Bye Man drives his victims insane, but other than that, his abilities are all subject to interpretation. It is unclear what exactly The Bye Bye Man does to his victims and why, he just kind of appears to mess with people. Even when The Bye Bye Man confronts his victims, there is no indication as to why they should feel endangered. The Bye Bye Man doesn’t yield a knife, chainsaw, or gun, he just slowly lumbers towards his prey until they decide to kill themselves. Even the seemingly threatening dog is useless, as he only appears to eat already dead bodies.
The Bye Bye Man fails to feature a threatening villain; so what else is there to hold the audience’s attention? Certainly not the poorly written characters. The main cast is as bland as they are forgettable, complimented by acting on par with the writing.
Characters? More like props
Three protagonists, Sasha, Elliott and John are so bland that it is almost difficult to criticize them; they are the exact same as hundreds of other stale horror characters. The exception being the female lead Sasha, who is represented the most poorly out of the three. While Elliott and John are simply dull and unremarkable, the performance by Sasha’s actress is spectacularly bad. At first, the upward inflections in her voice seem almost satirical (as if mocking the dumb blonde trope), however it quickly becomes evident that this performance is not the result of a witty joke, just poor acting.
Besides Sasha, none of the other characters are memorable in the least. Even prominent actresses Faye Dunaway and Carrie-Anne Moss make brief appearances, yet are largely forgettable. This is most likely a result of the lackluster writing and casting of these women to play generic characters rather than any fault of their own.
Every mistake or action made by the characters seems forced for plot contrivances rather than a result of the natural progression of events. A child actress is utilized to little avail, she utters a few creepy lines, and that’s it. She serves as little more than an introduction into the creepy happenings around her. This is similar to countless other films that feature creepy children, only here there is absolutely no purpose for her to exist. She’s never the one in danger, is hardly related to the main cast, and what little she does add to the series of events builds up to nothing.
Similar to the child, all of these characters are simply props to advance plot points. Nothing about them feels natural or creative, and little chemistry is established among them. Because of this, it is hard to empathize with them, as they hardly command any positive connection with the audience.
Nothing new or inventive
Many of these flaws could be excused if there was a spark of originality brought to the screen. There is nothing in this film that hasn’t been done better in more imaginative titles. The Bye Bye Man simply piggybacks off of genre tropes and plot devices utilized in more successful horror films. With terrible – bordering on hilarious – writing, it is difficult to imagine any way in which this film could not be presented as uninspired.
The most groan-inducing aspect of The Bye Bye Man is its cheap reliance on jumpscares. There is absolutely no tension that occurs naturally within the film, so in an attempt to force a quick fright for viewers, multiple jump scares are featured throughout. They occur fairly sporadically without any real purpose and tend to distract from what little plot remains with loud screams and audio ques. For viewers who have seen more than a handful of horror films, these instances will surely feel irritating rather than scary.
It’s hard to determine what the worst part of The Bye Bye Man truly is, but I believe most viewers can agree the film’s most frightening aspect is its allusion to a sequel.
The Bye Bye Man
With little in the way of continuity, character, or originality, The Bye Bye Man ends up feeling like a cheap attempt to cash in on its Friday the 13th release date, rather than an ambitious entry into the horror genre.