The Bye-Bye Man

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There isn’t a lot to say about The Bye-Bye Man, except that it capably fits into the early year dumping ground of movies in which studios have little faith, and cheaply made horror films that spring up to make a quick buck.  This entry, which has a few good scares and a notable cameo by Faye Dunaway, isn’t half-bad. If it scares you, it works, and it gave me a few honest chills.

The picture begins with one of those horror staple flashbacks where several murders are committed in a leafy suburban enclave circa mid-70s. So far, so good, the twisted motivation for the killings not immediately clear.

Since this is a formula horror film, a group of college friends on break take up residence in a vacation home that soon reveals itself to have some issues. The group consists of Elliott, played by blue-eyed star Douglas Smith, who resembles another young actor, Dane DeHaan; his cute blonde girlfriend, Sasha (Cressida Bonas); cocky bud John (Lucien Laviscount, who needs to tone down the confidence), and Kim (Jenna Kanell), who claims to be psychic (Jenna Kanell). We believe this because, naturally, she’s the most gothic-looking in the group.

Cue strange goings on that lead to a séance. Because don’t all college students follow beer pong and hooking up with a séance? It isn’t long before an apparition in a long robe (Doug Jones) begins appearing, usually with a vicious “hell hound” at his side, and people start dying in terrible ways.

This is all avoidable, actually, and it’s gradually revealed that the invocation of the spooky guy’s name—just speaking the words “the bye-bye man,” will conjure up the demon and bring about certain death. This conceit calls to mind by Candyman and less directly, the viewing of a videocassette in The Ring.

Yet while this may sound a tad derivative, the notion that one might manifest evil by an inability to control thoughts is quite a good one, and truthfully, the climax—which involves a close encounter with the villain (creepy) and a burning house (not), isn’t half-bad.

Dunaway turns up in the final act to explain everything before- well, I’ll let you see for yourself. And Carrie-Anne Moss is quite good as a police detective who wants to believe what is going on. A superbly written and acted interrogation scene lends gravitas to the fantastical premise.

With a screenplay by actor/writer Jonathan Penner and directed by Stacy Title (the pair are married offscreen), The Bye-Bye Man is a minor, shivery movie and a conceptually solid one, with some good scares and young people who don’t immediately turn you off from the get-go.

What else do you want?

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