“The Bye Bye Man” stands as a fairly unique horror film. Its cleverly crafted lore and exquisite setting feel fresh. Yet while “The Bye Bye Man” benefits from tight production, acting is decidedly uneven. Ultimately, its similarities to past genre entries and lackluster acting make it a good, but not great, film.
The film opens in the 1960s where a mass murder rocks a quite suburban neighborhood. Fast forward to present time and Elliot (Douglas Smith) moves into an off-campus house near his university. Elliot’s girlfriend Sasha (Cressida Bonas) and best friend John (Lucien Laviscount) join.
However, after moving in, bizarre events plague the trio. There’s an old desk with “The Bye Bye Man” written inside, a mysterious falling coin, and strange scratching noises. After a seance, university friend Kim (Jenna Kanell) becomes severely concerned. Elliot, Sasha, and John suffer from hallucinations and there’s dissent within the group. Through research, they discover that a journalist many years before worked on an article about The Bye Bye Man. His work led to a neighborhood massacre.
“The Bye Bye Man” is one part “Candyman,” a hint of “Final Destination,” and a side of “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.” There’s the conjuring aspect of “Candyman.” As the tagline of “The Bye Bye Man” warns of the name “Don’t think it, don’t say it.” Similarly, reciting “Candyman” arrives with negative ramifications. “The Bye Bye Man” assumes a “Final Destination” vibe as the titular Bye Bye Man (Doug Jones) is essentially death claiming those who think or say the name. A few moments delve into “Dream Warriors” territory with the hallucinations and banding together to thwart the Bye Bye Man.
Setting and cinematography are exquisite. Elliot rocks a Dead Kennedys shirt, the house is an large, old home that James Wan would find fitting for a third “The Conjuring.” There’s ample attention to detail. Despite a present day setting for “The Bye Bye Man,” aging buildings and set pieces populate the screen. Notably, the flower shop features a gorgeous cash register, and the university buildings appear historic. Adding to the old school vibe, there’s a sort of muted, almost grainy look that recalls 70s horror flicks.
Unfortunately, “The Bye Bye Man” falls flat with acting. The main trio deliver their lines as if reading off a script. There’s not much energy, and performances are pretty subdued. It’s less poor acting, and more characters that aren’t fully fleshed out. Carrie-Anne Moss bolsters the cast as Detective Shaw, and steals scenes with her inspired acting. Faye Dunaway pops up briefly as Widow Redmon, getting far too little screen time. It’s master thespian Doug Jones as the Bye Bye Man though that redeems the film. In case you missed it, Jones is incredible in “Love in the Time of Monsters.” Jones is the saving grace, menacing with his looks and truly transforming into the Bye Bye Man.
The effects on the horrific Bye Bye Man shine. Yet the hound accompanying the Bye Bye Man is a shoddy CGI job. Further detracting from the ambiance is the plot. While certain elements, including the ending, are truly surprising, there’s an equal amount of cliches. From the basement scare to loud noises, it delves into all too familiar territory.
Ultimately, “The Bye Bye Man” might not be perfect, but it’s not terrible. Rather, it’s frustrating. Amidst lovely set design and relative lack of modern horror tropes, “The Bye Bye Man” suffers from uneven acting. Moreover, it bears several similarities to past horror flicks. It’s a decent popcorn film: “The Bye Bye Man” remains an pretty, and technically masterful 96 minutes. If you can ignore the at times bland acting, you’ll appreciate the horror aspects which are more suspense and less gore.