Day 17: Female-Helmed Horror Movies For October
The Bye Bye Man
Directed by Stacy Title
1 hour, 36 minutes
I watched it on iTunes.
I had a lot of fun watching “The Bye Bye Man.” I was spooked. I was having major ‘90s slasher movie vibes. But then I went online and read about the movie and found its terrible reviews. And I’m talking vicious. I was so surprised. But as I thought about the movie, I realized those reviewers had a lot of good points. So overall, I’d say it’s fair to say this is a good-time spooker that doesn’t completely pan out or hold up upon closer inspection. But it is one of the only movies I’ve watched this month that’s actually creeped me out.
“The Bye Bye Man” has a hell of an opening. Director Stacy Title doesn’t dress up her one period sequence. Everyone and everything looks banal, ordinary, suburban, until a friend (Leigh Whannell, who wrote and acted in the “Insidious” and “Saw” movies, directed the third “Insidious” and on and on, basically, a horror movie superstar) shows up, asking the urgent question, “Who did you tell about the name?” And then he proceeds to get his gun…
Cut to present-day and we meet an adorable college couple, Elliot (Douglas Smith) and Sasha (Cressida Bonas) and Elliot’s best friend since childhood, John (Lucien Laviscount). Rather than live in boring, overpriced dorms, they decide to rent the world’s most enormous, dilapidated, creepy AF house off campus. Bad move, guys. Proceed with the haunting: coins, storage closets, a nightstand. Don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie with a haunted nightstand. Also don’t think I’ve ever seen a guy commit that big-time in a horror movie and have that be a character point. Elliot’s brother, Virgil (Michael Trucco, who was also terrific in “Battlestar Galactica” and “Hush”) warns him that he doesn’t need to rush right into moving in together with Sasha but Elliot wants a family like Virgil has. And when The Bye Bye Man starts messing with his head, Elliot’s button turns out to be jealousy over Sasha.
This movie was recommended by Chris Ethridge, a horror filmmaker friend and a consummate cheerleader to all indie film ladies. He also let me know that the after story of this movie is some seriously sad and empowering stuff. It turns out, about a year ago, Stacey Title was diagnosed with ALS. Now she’s in the advanced stages and has lost her ability to speak, is learning to use her eyes to communicate and needs a motorized wheelchair to move. But ready to feel lazy? Badass Title is still making her next (and final) movie, “Walking Time Bomb,” a low-budget dark comedy. It sounds like she has a hell of a village helping her make that happen. Big shout out to her for keeping on, even when things are unimaginably tough. There’s a terrific article in The Hollywood Reporter about Title but here is my favorite quote: “To have survived in this business to the point where #MeToo is finally changing things and now to be hit with this is literally injury to insult. It sucks. And yet, here we are. I have never quit trying, and I won’t quit now.” So we’ll be rooting for her to not only finish that movie but knock it out of the park!
So okay, maybe you’re wondering if I went into this flick a little biased, a little ready to root for her. Of course I was! I’m not a heartless asshole. But to be fair, I’m the cheeseball who really tries to go into every movie, rooting for them, hoping this one will rock my world and really have something to say, something to give out. So I was sure as shit extra hoping that the movie made by this badass lady was gonna pan out. But I would never condescend another filmmaker, especially another lady, by giving anything less than my honest opinion.
So was “The Bye Bye Man” some instant classic or a perfect flick? Uh, no. The main female character is full-on asleep for a good chunk of it and otherwise just looks like she just wants to lie down on a blanket. Who doesn’t? Blankets are the best. But not exactly a thrilling plot point for a horror movie, and it’s especially disappointing since this was made by a woman. And once we get a really good look at The Bye Bye Man, like with most boogeymen, he’s not all that scary, but I think that’s the movie’s point. That fear is only powerful if we let it be. So there’s those two points and the tightening the whole, uh, script could have used but I didn’t care at all. That skinless, bloody hound? Damn, that was messed up. Got some Faye Dunaway telling tales by a fireplace? I’m here for it. And I was really with Elliot in his desperation. It doesn’t come all the way together but I still had a damn good time.