Because no January can be complete without at least one pointless horror film dumped into theaters, “The Bye Bye Man” arrives in theaters to fill that quota.
It’s a film that uses a lot of bells and whistles to appear to be something fresh and new, but is ultimately a bunch of ragged pieces from the genre thrown together into one all-too-familiar stew.
“The Bye Bye Man” tells the story of three college students – Elliott (Douglas Smith), his girlfriend Sasha (Cressida Bonas) and his best friend John (Lucien Laviscount) – who move into an old house off campus.
It doesn’t take long for the trio to realize that something is amiss as strange things start to happen. Things get weirder when Elliott finds reference to someone called the Bye Bye Man – who once you say his name becomes so embedded in your psyche that you are driven mad, eventually leading to fatal results.
With the Bye Bye Man now in their lives, Elliott and his friends desperately try to search for a way to fight him off before they become another chapter in his carnage.
The film was written by former “Survivor” alum Jonathan Penner, who has basically taken every haunted house cliche and thrown it into a second-rate kind of “Candyman” villain. This is supposed to be a supernatural entity that crosses the lines of reality, but it’s hard to really care about something where the mythology is flimsy at best – and a lot of times feels like it is made up as the story moves along.
The young leads are basically nameless, faceless victims awaiting their fate. The biggest casting surprises come from the inclusion of two people you wouldn’t expect in this dreck – Carrie-Anne Moss as a detective and Faye Dunaway in a cameo as the widow of a former victim who may hold the key to defeating the Bye Bye Man.
Dunaway’s scene is one of those “What the ...” moments that at least keeps “Bye Bye Man” from being a total loss.
Sadly, the ending hints at the possibility of future films in this series. To quote the tagline of “Bye Bye Man,” when it comes to the prospects of a sequel, “Don’t speak it. Don’t say it.”
DVD dandy of the week
Arriving on DVD this week is one of 2016’s best films that many missed – “The Handmaiden” (A), the latest from director Chan-wook Park (the same man who directed the cult hit “Oldboy”). This is a visually stunning piece of work with a complex story that is full of twists and turns and plenty of surprises.
Set in 1930s Korea, “The Handmaiden” tells the story of a small-time thief named Sook-Hee (Tae-ri Kim), who gets a job as a handmaiden for a Japanese heiress named Hideko (Min-hee Kim).
Sook-Hee is really there as a plant for a swindler named Fujiwara (Jung-woo Ha) who is – as a Japanese Count – trying to convince Hideko to marry him so they can take her money and put her in a mental institution.
The plot seems to proceed according to plan until Sookee starts to develop romantic feelings for Hideko and reconsiders her pact with Fujiwara.
Park brings the same visual style to “Handmaiden” as he did in “Oldboy,” creating a lavish world with some really nice set pieces to enhance this marvelous story. “The Handmaiden” is essentially one big long con, with some impressive twists that make this a film that requires more than one viewing.
The cast is very good as well, helping to make all of this quite memorable.
If you are a fan of Park’s previous work – which also includes “Stoker” – this is a must-see.
“The Handmaiden” is not rated, but features language, violence and several explicit sex scenes. It will be released Tuesday on DVD.