January is a weird time for movie fans. Historically, it is something of a dumping ground for movie studios to unload some bad movies and maybe make a quick buck. On the flipside, many of the awards season contenders expand into more theaters and the rare, unexpected gem can be found. For the most part, though, if a studio decides to drop a horror movie in January, it is a bad sign. The Bye Bye Man falls into that category, but this isn’t just a bad movie we’re talking about; this is an early contender for the worst movie of 2017.
Director Stacy Title’s The Bye Bye Man, the latest from STX Entertainment, centers on a mysterious figure who was behind a serious of bizarre murders in the 60s in Wisconsin, but was never heard from again. Until now that is. When three college friends move into a house off campus, they discover the secret of The Bye Bye Man and awaken something evil that was kept at bay for decades thanks to some brutal but necessary bloodshed.
Here’s the thing, the reason movie studios make horror movies is that they can be made relatively inexpensively and have a chance to turn a big profit for minimal risk. Making movies is a business, no big deal. The tradeoff being that sometimes we get something truly great out of the deal like It Follows or Don’t Breathe, for some more recent examples. The rest of the time, we maybe get some cheap thrills but can still call it a win even if the movie in question doesn’t hold up to much scrutiny beyond the simple pleasures it provides. Where things get borderline offensive is when a movie has nothing to offer. No thrills. No fun. Nothing. Even more, when it feels like there was very little effort put in by those making the movie, it really grinds ones gears. That is not to say people didn’t work very hard to make The Bye Bye Man. I’m sure they did. I’m happy those who did work hard were rewarded with a paycheck and whatever meals were provided for them during production. But anyone who was responsible for any kind of quality control should issue a personal apology to anyone who pays to go see this movie.
Let’s start with the absolute worst thing about The Bye Bye Man which is without question, the acting. Nearly everyone in this movie delivers a performance that would barely be considered passable for a movie found in the 99 cent discount DVD bin at the car wash, let alone a studio horror movie that people have to pay to go see. To that point, just remember, nobody is making you pay to go see this movie. So don’t. Even if you really love horror movies, don’t go. If that girl/guy you’ve been dying to go out with insists they want to go see this movie, they aren’t worth it. There are plenty of fish in the sea.
Singling anyone out for their terrible acting would be in poor taste and also pointless, because outside of Doug Jones who plays The Bye Bye Man and is effectively creepy, but thankfully doesn’t have to deliver any of the dreadful dialogue, everyone was awful. Absolutely everyone. Well, I take that back. For some reason, Carrie-Anne Moss got dragged into this disaster and for her small part, was fine, but she couldn’t even come close to rescuing her scenes, let alone the movie as a whole. Oh, and Faye Dunaway is in it for some reason.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get to the other offensive part about The Bye Bye Man. There is a reason people go see horror movies and it isn’t all that hard to figure out. For some, it is fun to be scared. Be it a psychological scare or an “oh no he’s right behind you!” or “did you see that ghost in the background?!” kind of scare. Seeing a horror movie with a crowd is sort of like being on a carnival ride. It provides a thrill. Even an average horror movie can accomplish this. The Bye Bye Man fails so miserably on so many surface levels that almost nothing winds up being scary at all. The movie winds up delivering more unintentional humor than it does scares. So a poorly acted horror movie with a concept that, in itself is far from original that isn’t at all scary is what this equates to. I ask you, who is that for? The answer is nobody, so don’t go see it.
There are plenty of other things wrong with The Bye Bye Man, but what is really frustrating is that with actors that can actually act and a creative team that actually seemed to care about what was being filmed might have been able to work with this material and deliver something with some entertainment value. Maybe not groundbreaking, but something that would serve a purpose. Not all movies need to be revelatory, but for what it costs to go to a movie, or even when asking someone to invest some of their short, precious time on this Earth to watch something, there should be some value in it. I can’t possibly see any value in this. Do you have a Netflix account? Great! Watch The Shining, V/H/S/, Children of the Corn, Hellraiser, Wolf Creek 2 (don’t worry, you don’t really need to see the first Wolf Creek), The Awakening or The Babadook. Your time will be spent better doing that and more importantly, you won’t encourage studios to make more of this garbage.
Let me be clear in that I am sure there are people who tried hard to make this movie good. I don’t know who those people are, but I want those people to know I’m truly sorry if they are to read these seemingly harsh words. However, movies exist for the purpose of entertainment and in some cases can transcend and become pure works of art, but at the very least they should provide some form of amusement. The Bye Bye Man is everything wrong with horror movies and is the exact kind of thing that gives horror a bad name. These things should not be encouraged and those who made it should not be rewarded with box office dollars. Moviemaking is a business, but businesses need to have integrity to some degree. To me, releasing something this poorly made and expecting people to pay to see it is in poor taste. Again, sorry Doug Jones. I don’t blame you.