Film review: The Bye Bye Man – a murderous ghost looms in incredibly messy US horror
You have to wonder if there is any point making PG-13-rated horror films – they’re just not scary enough for Asian audiences. Add in a script that’s all over the place, and this film has wasted its one good idea
Horror fans in Hong Kong must be starting to wonder why US filmmakers bother to make PG-13-rated supernatural thrillers, as they don’t deliver enough scares. The Bye Bye Man doesn’t offer more than a few banging doors to startle viewers, and that’s hardly enough. Even the evil spirit is doomed to lurk around in the shadows, out of the sight of the audience.
The film is based on a chapter from Robert Damon Schneck’s book The President’s Vampire. Schneck’s writings are part of the “weird New Jersey” genre, which documents supernatural events in the Garden State. Stacy Title’s adaptation shifts the action to the midwestern US state of Wisconsin, where a group of students move into a spooky old house off-campus.
The story is something about a murderous ghost, the Bye Bye Man, who turns up and kills those who know its name. The only way to get rid of the spectre is to kill off everyone who knows the words “The Bye Bye Man”, then commit suicide.
It’s a serviceable idea for a horror, but the incredibly messy script, written by Title’s husband, Jonathan Penner, has no focus. It’s never clear what the Bye Bye Man is, what he’s making the students do, and how they can save themselves. Sometimes they see hallucinations, sometimes they murder each other, and sometimes they seem immune to the evil. Cast and crew try hard to make something of it, but the material’s just not there.
The viral aspect of the story – those who hear the name will die – is modelled on the superlative 1998 Japanese horror Ringu, but the result is more similar to the recent below-par remake Rings.
The Bye Bye Man opens on April 6
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