The Bye Bye Man is not a good movie, but I don’t need to tell you that. Chances are, you’re not reading this review because you’re genuinely curious about the quality of the film, and you’re certainly not reading it expecting a positive review. If you’ve used Hulu or even watched cable at all the last couple of weeks, you’ve been inundated with commercials for the movie, and while trailers can be misleading, we both know exactly what kind of movie this one was going to be. If you hate horror or you have some sort of standards, you can throw it into a pile with Ouija, The Boy, and The Forest in your mind and let it be done. But you probably not reading this because you want to straight up dismiss it either…
You want to know exactly how bad it is.
Just like a car crash, there are some movies you’re so morbidly curious about you can’t help but dig in, and if that’s the way you feel, if you want to go all the way and absolutely relish in a piece of cinematic garbage, you’ve come to the right place. The Bye Bye Man is everything you want it to be and more. It’s got hot teens who can’t act their way out of a paper bag. It has cinematography that’s so utterly bad it’s almost effective. It has a plot that’s so nonsensical it makes you want to laugh. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
If you haven’t seen a million commercials for the film yet, The Bye Bye Man follows three college-age friends who rent an old house together and discover the legend of the Bye Bye Man, a monster/creature thing that grows stronger the more you say its name. It causes you to hallucinate, it urges you to kill the ones you love, and once it’s in your head, there’s no getting away.
It’s clear our protagonists, Elliot, John, and Sasha, are doomed from the beginning because their is absolutely no chemistry between either of them. Elliot and John (who are supposed to be old friends) have the most forced camaraderie I’ve ever seen in a movie, and Sasha (who is supposed to be Elliot’s girlfriend) seems like she’d have more sexual chemistry with a coffee pot. None of these people feel real, they’re simply archetypes to drive the story, except there’s not much story to tell? While The Bye Bye Man presents some interesting visuals to explain the backstory of the monster, none of it makes any sense and there’s not a single attempt to give us a real explanation. Like absolutely any horror movie, there’s a library scene where the kids hit the stacks to find out what’s actually going on, but the research only goes as far to explain two killing sprees that happened in the 60s.
The rest of the film follows Eliot and friends as they attempt to break the monsters hold on them, which is fine. They don’t necessarily owe us an explanation for anything, but when the movie is constantly throwing random train footage at us, it kind of makes me feel like I’m supposed to be connecting dots that don’t exist. Then there are bizarre coins that keep popping up all over the place, and the fact that the Bye Bye Man has a weird meat dog (I’m not kidding). There are a lot of visuals and repeating themes that make absolutely no sense.
There are also a lot of weird visual cues. The camera lingers on the strangest places in the house long enough to be unsettling, but in a way that’s more confusing than scary. Why am I staring at a blank wall for so long? Why am I watching Eliot look at his reflection in a teapot for what feels like a full minute? Why does the camera keep returning to that one window in the hallway? Sure, the jump scares are all normal (and there are plenty of them), but sometimes it feels like director Stacy Title decided to make a very bad art movie in the middle of making a very bad horror movie, and she didn’t even succeed at that.
I get that some people would see watching this movie as a torturous waste of time. They’re not wrong. It’s as bad as bad can get, but at the end of the day, I had a goddamn blast watching this movie. The best time. I laughed, I cried, I yelled things at the screen. The Bye Bye Man brought joy into my heart and at the end of the day, isn’t that the only thing that matters? This movie might be pure and utter garbage, but if you get a couple of friends together get halfway drunk, and just let the movie play, I promise you’ll have fun.