Friday, August 4, 2017

The Bye Bye Man (2017), by Stacy Title

This was a treasure.

Unlike The Book of Henry, I missed this one in theaters, and subsequently caught up to it on a rental. And oh my God, it is really fucking bad. There are several reasons why it is bad and there are several reasons why I chose to review it for the site, which I will greatly enjoy delving into because it means I get to rip this movie a new asshole. I will say initially that I liked this for the same reason why I liked Book of Henry: what the hell are our kids gonna think about us for having taken this crap?

We open in 1969, with a man named Larry running around his neighborhood killing his friends and family, all the while chanting, "Don't think it, don't say it." He wants to know who's told who about "the name," warning that "he's coming." We then cut to a shot a train, and go on to the present day. Three college students, Elliot, Sasha, and John. Elliot and Sasha are dating, but there's an unspoken, Phantom of the Convent-esque attraction between Sasha and John. After getting some strange vibes in the house Elliot finds a drawer left behind by the old owner, which has Larry's motto inscribed on it, accompanied by the words "The Bye Bye Man." Later, Sasha invites over her friend Kim, who is a medium. They hold a seance wherein Elliot reveals he's an Amazing Atheist fanboy, but Kim nonetheless leads the group in a good ol' Hollywood Seance Seizure.

Sasha begins to develop a bad cough, and all three of them begin to hallucinate. These hallucinations all tend to put them in embarrassing or harmful circumstances. They also begin to become aware of the Bye Bye Man, and how he becomes more real to them the more they think about him, and the more scared of him they get. Elliot's research, facilitated by the world's best librarian, brings him to a redacted newspaper article written by Larry, who we learn killed himself with what looks to be the world's tastiest swig of Drain-O after slaughtering the last of the folk contaminated by the Bye Bye Man's influence. He tries to destroy the article, but the Bye Bye Man strikes quickly and makes Kim step out in front of a train; then, he basically makes Elliot seem like a crazy person, leading to him getting arrested. In a hilarious scene, Elliot talks his way out of prison with the most bullshit logic ever, even though his detainer is a hardass high-rank cop played by Carrie-Anne Moss. I cannot describe the conversation they have--it must be seen to be believed. Anyway, in the end, the Bye Bye Man comes for the trio with his N64-graphics CGI dog, and murder and mayhem ensues. Elliot seemingly seals away the evil...or does he?

So this wasn't as bad as the reviews led me to believe. However, it was still an unforgettable experience in vast and dramatic incompetence. I think the best place to start is the first thing I noticed about this film, which is what this film rips off. For instance, I'm pretty sure that the people who made this saw Marble Hornets, the first big Slenderman YouTube show, because the two stories share a lot of commonalities. Both are about young people who come in contact with a curse of sorts wherein an inhuman monstrosity begins terrorizing them after they learn about it and how it gains strength by people learning about and becoming afraid of it. Those who are particularly sensitive to the presence of the entity begin violently coughing, and the entity sends its victims into fugue states where they experience lost time, mood swings, and hallucinations. I do firmly believe that they were trying to cash in on Slenderman here due to the big faceless guy's recent transition to the sellout world of Hot Topic merch, despite the fact that stories of demons conjured up by sheer belief go back for millennia, and they scare the fuck out of me. In case you cannot tell, this movie did not scare me in the least.

This was put out by Universal, by the way. Hey, the Bye Bye Man should be part of the Dark Universe!

Actually, this movie has an uncanny number of production companies. Six or seven by my count. Interesting.

Anyway; this movie also rips off The Babadook, again, by being about a demon which is summoned up by people coming in contact with a record of it. The Bye Bye Man is similarly akin to the Babadook in that he cannot be gotten rid of once he begins haunting people. (For those of you who followed that Gay Babadook meme, I present to you thus the concept of the Bi Bi Man.) His implacability also echoes the entity from It Follows. All of these recent, more successful ideas have been Frankenstein'd together to make something that is nearly hilarious in its plagiarism. You feel the age in the movie, even though it only came out less than a year ago. I know I said that tulpa and other such creatures are among my worst fears, and that's true, but movies like this are helping me break through the fear. I mean, come on. R.L. Stine's The Haunting Hour had an episode on fear-conjured demons that was more involving than this, and that came out nearly seven years before this did.

Now, onto the good stuff. At the start of this film, we have some of the same douchey movie college dudebro stuff that makes me come out of the woodworks for the Ouija Experiment movies. It is very much like a semi-white version of Ax 'Em. There is wallpaper of a fish graphically sucking a man's cock. Then, at the housewarming party for the trio, people play baseball with a Nerf football, like it's the tuxedo football game in The Room, or the "one-on-one" scene in Catwoman. There's also weird symbolism involving trains (?) which involves trains running over the three while they stand on the tracks showing us their nude asses. Okay. I think it's supposed to be that the Bye Bye Man is coming for them like a train about to crush them, but it's still pretty stupid. What's not stupid is how a dog which is part of the wallpaper turns into CGI so it can turn to the audience and snarl. Its head even transforms into a skull. This is meant to foreshadow the Awful CGI Dog, which...oh dear God.

This thing is fucking awful. It looks like something out of Where the Dead Go to Die, and if there is any way that that can be a good thing, I don't mean it as a good thing. It's a glossy, overly-smooth mess straight out of one of the Godzilla PS1 games. What makes it even worse is that it's never explained what it is, why it's working with the Bye Bye Man, or hell, what the Bye Bye Man himself fucking is. I'm sure this, too, is part of the Slenderman plagiarism, and they're trying to be all, "It's unexplained which makes it creepier!" But not in something like this. I laughed every time that dog was onscreen for all the dumb issues it brought to the movie's forefront.

(It has also occurred to me that perhaps the Bye Bye Dog is a ripoff of Smiledog, another demon that haunts those who know about it from Internet meme culture. God, I knew there was a reason I dreaded the day Hollywood started stealing from creepypastas.)

Anyway, I have run out of things to say about The Bye Bye Man, at least until the direct-to-video sequel rears its head. Here's the usual point where I recommend the movie, and sing its praises, but here, I'm going to confess that you have to be a straight-up fucking maniac to squeeze any sort of enjoyment out of this. I loved the hell out of it, but again, only because I love watching utter disasters, and because it was better than I anticipated. See it at your own peril--and I mean that gravely.

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