Sunday, 15 January 2017

THE BYE BYE MAN

CONTAINS SPOILERS

Utterly generic template horror movie gets utterly generic template review spoiler warning and, indeed, utterly generic template review. There are no surprises on offer in a film that, barring specific details, is as production-line a supernatural bogeyman and haunted house popcorn screamer as they come: if Lin Shaye had wandered in from the Insidious movies she wouldn't have seemed wildly out of place (especially given an early cameo from that series' Leigh Whannell).

The Bye Bye Man is a film that goes out of its way to avoid challenging expectations so much it looks like it came from an online screenplay generator full of [Insert Name Here]. Three dimbo college teens, a couple and a black best friend, lease an old house off-campus but soon find themselves beset by curious visions and hallucinations which may or may not be (but obviously are) connected to a reporter back in 1969 who went on a shotgun rampage and then killed himself. He was under the influence of a demonic figure called The Bye Bye Man, whose gimmick is that he doesn't actually exist in the physical world but the more you think about him, the more real and threatening he becomes. Merely saying his name brings him and his (dubious CGI) hellhound ever closer....

So it's a bit A Nightmare On Elm Street, a bit The Babadook, a bit The Conjuring and Insidious, a bit Lights Out, a bit Sinister. There's even a vaguely goth hot psychic chick brought on to be [a] predictably ridiculed, [b] predictably killed off in an unnecessarily violent and spectacular manner (that one dates all the way back to Witchboard!). But.... as a Friday night teen horror movie it does work on the level of basic Boo! and long scenes of fools wandering around a creepy old house in the dead of night without switching the lights on for no good reason. The early appearances by the Bye Bye Man himself (Doug Jones) are pleasantly unsettling, and the tricksy hallucination sequences where everyone is seeing different things are nicely handled. It's a pity that it sticks so rigidly to the formula. Delayed from last year after apparently being toned down for (yawn) a lower certificate - the close-range shotgun murders are ridiculously bloodless - it's worth a look but don't go in expecting anything radical or gamechanging.

***

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