“The Bye Bye Man” is one of those unoriginal, unintelligent horror movies studios dump into theaters every so often, seen and quickly forgotten if they’re seen at all.
There are a couple of scary things about it, though: appearances by Carrie-Anne Moss and Faye Dunaway. Their agents must be terrified.
The film, directed by Stacy Title, is a kind of riff on the “Bloody Mary” story, or the “Candyman” films, even “Beetlejuice.” In those tales, you say the entity’s name a certain number of times and it appears, then kills you (except in the case of Beetlejuice, in which Michael Keaton shows up and makes you laugh).
The film begins with a prologue set in the 1960s when a man drives up to a house, asks the people inside if they told anyone the name and then shoots them to death.
Then he goes for the neighbors. And you thought solicitors were bad.
Cut to present time. College student Elliot (Douglas Smith), his girlfriend Sasha (Cressida Bonas) and Elliot’s longtime friend John (Lucien Laviscount) move into an old house near campus. There are hints of tragedy in Elliot’s past, though they are not explored very deeply — fitting, because nothing else in the film is, either. There are strange noises and sightings and a coin that keeps appearing, along with a big coat that hangs in the corner and appears occasionally to be a scary-looking man.
Meanwhile Elliot finds a night stand with the words “Don’t say it” and “Don’t think it” written over and over in the drawer; underneath, carved into the wood, are the words “The Bye Bye Man.”
Sasha’s friend Kim (Jenna Kanell) tries to purge the house of bad vibes or whatever, and she and the other three wind up talking to spirits (Kim’s got a gift for it). She senses the don’t-say-it warning and Elliot blurts out the name.
It’s all downhill from there.
They all start seeing things. Elliot does a little research and learns … almost nothing. We do find out that the man in the prologue was a reporter who had been writing about a teenage killer, and eventually everyone pieces together that if you say or think the Bye Bye Man’s name, he’ll show up and kill you. Or possess you. And if you’re dead his big demon dog-type creature will eat you.
Also a train with the serial number 4241 shows up every so often.
Who knows? It’s not explained. There are a lot of holes in the story (Jonathan Penner’s script is based on Robert Damon Schneck’s story “The Bridge to Body Island,” which evidently goes into greater detail). So what we’re left with are a few PG-13 murders, uninspired performances, some not-so-scary urban legends and a couple of accomplished actresses who must be wondering how they got here.
Don’t say it. Don’t think it.
And whatever you do, don’t see it.
Bill Goodykoontz, USA TODAY Network
STX Entertainment presents a film directed by Stacy Title and written by Jonathan Penner. Rated PG-13 (for terror, horror violence, bloody images, sexual content, thematic elements, partial nudity, some language and teen drinking). Running time: 96 minutes. Opens Friday at local theaters.