The Bye Bye Man, alternatively, “I Sat Through The Bye Bye Man So You Don’t Have To”. And I did it mostly because The Bye Bye Man is Cressida Bonas’ feature film debut as an actress. You might remember Bonas as Prince Harry’s ex, and you will never remember her as an actress because she is terrible. Even by B-movie, January horror movie, expecting-the-worst standards, Cressida Bonas is a Bad Actress. But at least she’s not alone in The Bye Bye Man, where everyone is a bad actor except Faye Dunaway because she’s Faye Goddamn Dunaway. This movie is indescribably bad but I’ll give it a try.
It actually starts out kind of okay. The opening scene is set in 1960s Wisconsin, which if you know your murder history, you know is both prime serial killer real estate and prime serial killer activity time. Wisconsin is one of America’s best known serial killer breeding grounds, and setting any horror movie in Wisconsin is straight away a good decision. The state motto might as well be Wisconsin: We Don’t Like Talking About All The F*cked Up Sh*t That Happens Here. And The Bye Bye Man starts with some f*cked up Wisconsin sh*t as a dude goes on a suburban murder spree, killing several people and asking to whom they told “the name”. But after this three-minute opening, The Bye Bye Man goes downhill so fast it basically launches off a cliff and plummets to its fiery death.
The movie revolves around three dumb college kids who rent a huge house outside their Wisconsin college town. The house is obviously haunted, like so, so haunted, and Cressida Bonas is immediately like, “Um, this house is super f*cking creepy.” But her boyfriend, Elliot (Douglas Smith doing a Dane DeHaan impression), insists on moving into the obviously very haunted house, along with their mutual friend John (Lucien Laviscount—now THAT is a great vampire name). It doesn’t take long before the haunting starts, and it revolves around the Bye Bye Man, who drives you crazy with hallucinations and gets “closer” to you the more you think and talk about him, until he eventually makes you kill yourself and others. About forty minutes into this movie, invoking the Bye Bye Man starts looking like a reasonable way to get out watching the rest of it.
In another movie, Douglas Smith might be a salvageable actor, but in this one he’s saddled with the thankless burden of his part and Cressida Bonas’, since she is clearly not up to the task of acting in a movie. Normally in a horror movie there are two characters, the inflicted—the one suffering from the haunting—and the wary, whose job it is to determine What Is Going On and How To Stop It. Early on, Bonas is set up to be the wary, the one who is immediately suspicious of the house and doesn’t want to stay there, going so far as to invite a mysticore classmate to cleanse the house of bad juju.
But she’s so immediately terrible as an actress that Elliot switches into wary mode, too, and Bonas is banished to bed with a dry cough and a blank face meant to communicate fear, I think? Hard to tell, she’s not terribly expressive. And that leaves poor Smith stranded, forced to swing between increasingly convincing delusions and bouts of investigative pragmatism as he tries to figure out the “rules” to defeat the Bye Bye Man. Which he does after a visit to Faye Dunaway—the most credible element of this movie is the suggestion that a visit to Faye Dunaway leads to life-altering epiphanies—but those rules never really matter as Elliot is immediately forced back into inflicted mode and his knowledge of how to defeat the Bye Bye Man is never mentioned again.
Eventually, The Bye Bye Man ends, which, if you are so unfortunate as to see it, is at least a little encouraging—don’t worry, it will end. I can’t imagine any reason you would ever willingly watch this movie, especially as Split comes out this weekend, and it is a much better horror movie with MUCH better acting. The Bye Bye Man is just a terrible movie that you should never, ever see.
Here's Cressida at a press night for Gatsby in London last month.