“My fear makes you stronger. I’m not scared.”
It’s the first Friday the 13th of 2017. And as this most auspicious date now requires, we are duty bound to consume whatever horror film is released into cinemas. So off I went, the good little consumer (and horror fan), to sit in a dark room and indulge in my favourite of all the genres.
Things are bound to go wrong for college kids Elliot and Sasha; the couple move into an off-campus house with Elliot’s friend, John, where they soon trip across strange scribblings in a night stand. The words “don’t say it. Don’t think it” repeatedly scrawled on a board covering up a name carved into the wood.
“The Bye Bye Man”
The Bye Bye man is a ghost, of sorts. The utterance of his name brings him to you and once he’s in your head he can play with it. The spirit shows you things meant to mess with you, to scare you and to make you do stupid and dangerous things to yourself and those around you. The pale ghost-like entity terrorises the trio as they fight to figure out where he came from and how to escape the curse that they seem to have brought upon themselves.
Every time I watch one of these committee built horror films, a little bit of my soul dies. I knew this film was going to be garbage, but the premise of a supernatural villain who feeds off people’s fear, strengthened when they allow him into his head, sounded kind of cool. It sounded tacky, played out and completely unoriginal, but it sounded kind of cool. It was an idea that I was willing to get behind and give a chance to.
Sadly, as is always the case, I was let down badly.
One dimensional, walking talking clichés for main characters annoyed the piss out of me. Within minutes of them being on screen I was praying for their swift but gory demise to put them out of my misery. The hatred for them meant I was in no mood to watch as they try to trade blows with The Bye Bye Man. Instead, I’d rather they were killed off quick so I could go home and wash the tropes off me!
Worse still is that the main bad guy seems like a neutered, pre-watershed baddie! Watered down to almost nothing, I’m embarrassed for the character and I’m embarrassed for Doug Jones (the man behind some of Guillermo Del Toro’s best creations including Pan and Abe Sapien) for putting effort into his role. Writers and director make no effort to make him scary and instead chose to have this man just wander round in a cloak with an enormous blood soaked hound with no rhyme nor reason to his existence. It just felt like such a waste.
Essentially, I reckon someone had the idea of this lanky ghost in an overcoat that looks a little like the pictures we’ve seen of the new Pennywise and based their entire film around that concept with little thought going into much else. The idea of these kids hallucinating things that scare them giving us a look into their personalities is only a good idea if I know anything about them. Or care about them. Or at least don’t want them to die a horrible death.
I really wanted to like this film, I thought The Bye Bye Man was a very cool looking character and this ghost patrolling people’s psyches with his dog in tow was an awesome concept. But there was absolutely no follow through. A selection of ideas put to film with no real connecting thread for them; The Bye Bye Man is the bastard love child of Jeepers Creepers, Candyman, Final Destination and a ton of other, much better horror films.
Perhaps I would have been a little more forgiving if it had turned up on my HorrorShow or Shudder subscriptions with an indie feel to it, but the hyper glossy Hollywood treadmill look doesn’t endear it to me in the end. I expect – no, I demand – much better from my horror films.