15 – 96mins – 2017
Purportedly based on the real-life anomalous phenomena detailed in the chapter “The Bridge to Body Island” from Fortean Times contributor Robert Damon Schneck’s book The President’s Vampire, this supernatural horror adapted by Jonathan Penner is an admirable attempt to conjure up a modern-day bogeyman in the same vein as Freddie Kreuger and Candyman. Sadly, director Stacy Title’s film was crucified upon its theatrical roll-out in January, so it seems quite likely that the legacy of The Bye Bye Man will die out sooner than anticipated.
It’s a shame, frankly, because for the first half my spine was genuinely tingled by the slow-drip tease of the morbid mystery surrounding the hooded, hound-walking dark paranormal entity (played by Hellboy’s Doug Jones) who feeds on people’s knowledge of his name and leads them to regret ever learning it, ultimately chanting the mantra: “Don’t say it, don’t think it” while they dementedly destroy any trace of his existence.
Awkward student threesome Elliot (Douglas Smith), his girlfriend Sasha (Cressida Bonas – former love interest of Prince Harry’s) and potential third wheel John (Lucian Laviscount) move in to some antiquated and poorly-lit off-campus accommodation, only for paranormally sensitive friend Kim (Jenna Kanell) to be scared off from ‘cleansing’ the dank digs. Before long, old-fashioned coins begin turning up and a strange snarling can be heard in the dead of night…
Sasha, meanwhile, starts to grow increasingly sickly, while John and Elliot start experiencing falsified hallucinations that threaten to tear their friendship apart. So far, so spooky, and I’m legitimately intrigued. However, a slapdash second half undoes all the hard work by revealing the phenomena to be tied to a mass killing in 1969 and a reporter’s (Leigh Cooties Whannell) insane attempts to bury the story and delete the monster from history.
The muddily mythology is pocked full of gaping holes in logic, while initially key elements (the coins, the hell-hound) are largely forgotten and never succinctly interwoven into the explanation. Carrie-Anne Moss as a belatedly introduced detective is wholly wasted, while screen legend Faye Dunaway is afforded little more than a glorified cameo. An increase in hallucinations also makes it difficult to keep track of what is real and what is a symptom of the curse.
With a sharper script and less convoluted set-up, I would happily say “hi hi” to a Bye Bye Man sequel, but until they can guarantee a better pay-off to the plot, husband and wife filmmakers Penner and Title had best heed their script and not say it or think it.
CR@B’s Claw Score: