"Don't think it. Don't say it. Don't think it. Don't say it."
Throughout the course of THE BYE BYE MAN, this phrase will tear at your ears even though I think it's purpose contradicts itself. With a title like that, it aims to create the next big horror movie villain, hoping to ingrain a new boogeyman in the minds of kids who are probably too young to be watching this. Unfortunately, the monster we get is far too bland and his story doesn't make entirely much sense by the time the credits roll.
Leigh Whannell opens up the film, playing Larry Redmon, a reporter in 1969 armed with a shotgun, who shoots down multiple victims in broad daylight. The victims apparently are guilty of introducing the story of the title character, therefore, are killed. Fast forward to the present and we are introduced to three young adults who move into a house after experience college dorms. One of them finds a nightstand with the "Don't think it. Don't say it" written inside repeatedly, so this of course only encourages him to find out what this is all about. Literally within minutes (maybe seconds), he discovers the Bye Bye Man is the one not to think or talk about. Little is known about him, except that he gets closer to you the more you think about him. He shows up in the shadows, just in time for some great jump scares, along with a giant canine companion. His powers don't seem to have any kind of emotional connection to him, but loves to toy with his victims.
Let me point out that the Bye Bye Man supposedly lives off on people believing in him. A little CANDYMANish, but I can work with that. However, in CANDYMAN, our monster starts a murder spree to keep his story alive so he can survive. He is threatened by a student who helps debunk the myth and uses her to rebuild fear in the community. In THE BYE BYE MAN, he is brought back when his name is discovered in the nightstand, but then proceeds to induce hallucinations in his victims that drive them to murder anyone who knows about him. So if they're killing off anyone who knows, then doesn't the Bye Bye Man end up dead as a result?
Even aside from that, the characters are aware of what's going on, but still act surprised to discover what's real and what's not. They don't play it safe and end up making senseless decisions that get the innocent killed. The movie could definitely serve as a cautionary driving video as no one seems to be watching the road and the audience isn't surprised when they end up hitting something.
THE BYE BYE MAN has a promising opening, beautifully shot and awfully grim so it's a shame when the film shifts into teen supernatural territory with CGI scares. I had seen the trailers and almost double checked to make sure I was watching the right movie while the opening played. While Whannell is well known for the SAW and INSIDIOUS franchises, he really thrives in his limited screen time here, emphasizing that the real monster to be scared of is the one next door. If the rest of the movie went more into the psychological territory, then this coujld have been a great experiment in mass hysteria. However, it's cheapened in order to appeal to a broader audience, but fails to even appeal them. The chance to create the next great boogeyman is sadly shot down in the span of 90 minutes, but the first 5 or so minutes is well worth a look.
THE BYE BYE MAN will be available to own on Blu-ray and DVD April 11 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment