FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Jul 11, 2017

The What What Now?

I don't want to brag or anything, but I must admit that most of the time I'm pretty pleased with my brain. It may not have any Carrie-esque special murder powers (YET), but it's still fairly useful: it reminds me to put pants on before I leave the house, it has key dialogue from the 1995 made for TV film Midwest Obsession (aka Beauty's Revenge, starring Courtney Thorne-Smith and Tracey fucking Gold) stored in it, it hasn't fallen for any of the "flat Earth" business, etc etc. However! Sometimes–don't tell it I said this, it's just between me and you–my brain is a real jerk. For example, this year a movie called The Bye Bye Man shows up out of nowhere. "Ha! Ha! Ha!" says my brain. "What a stupid title. Really? The 'Bye Bye Man'? Best not waste your time on that, 'tis certain to be ever so awful." (I know...sometimes my brain talks like it's the fifth Little Women sister or something. It's just a thing it does.)

But then I read that Carrie-Anne Moss and Faye Dunaway (FAYE DUNAWAY!) are in The Bye Bye Man and the next thing I know, my brain is going "Okay, this movie is going to rule so hard. It has to! Trust me, I've done the math." My brain convinced me that this is a film I simply had to see. And the next next thing I know, I am spending ninety-nine cents renting the damn Bye Bye Man and reader, let me say this: that is at least $0.99 too much. That's right. This movie should have paid me to watch it!

Back in the summer of '69, a man goes on an oddly bloodless shotgun rampage. Before he shoots each victim, he asks questions like "WHO DID YOU TELL?" and "DID YOU SAY IT?" and "REMEMBER WHEN YOU COULD SIT OUTSIDE AND NOT WORRY ABOUT THE MOSQUITOS AND THE KILLERS?" Okay, that last one is strictly an I wish. But no matter what answer he gets to his questions, the man is unsatisfied and he bangs, he bangs. Then it's bye bye, man, and we travel to the future, aka the now.

In this so-called "now" three college students are excited to move into an enormous house together. I did not bother to learn their names (so sue me), but our intrepid heroes are: Guy Who Must Really Like The Dead Kennedys Because He Has A Sticker On His Car, On The Acoustic Guitar Case That Is Propped In A Corner, And Also He Wears a Dead Kennedys T-Shirt (I shall call him DK); Girl Who Is DK's Girlfriend; and Black Dude Who Is DK's Childhood Best Friend And Also Maybe He Has A Crush On Girl. PHEW!

DK finds a nightstand that has a drawer festooned with classic "crazy person" writing that warns "don't think it don't say it" over and over again. Underneath it says "Bye Bye Man"...before you can say DON'T THINK IT DON'T SAY IT, DK has thought it and said it.

A "sensitive" friend of Girl holds a kind of...seance? I guess? And I don't know, she gets both the heebies and the jeebies and the point is, the Bye Bye Man is now a thing, infecting all of our intrepid heroes and the sensitive friend and anyone else who hears his name.

How exactly does the BBMan manifest? Oh, let me count the ways:
  • there are scratches in a few walls
  • victims hallucinate, like DK thinks Girl and Black Dude have sex but they don't (spoiler)
  • Girl develops a persistent cough
  • Black Dude hallucinates that there are three maggots in Sensitive Friend's hair one time
  • doors slam
  • sometimes you think the black bathrobe hanging on the wall is the Bye Bye Man
  • coins? there are coins
  • and there's a train? a train noise and light happen sometimes for some reason?
  • he "makes you do things" but really the only bad thing people do is kill other people who have heard his name, so clearly the Bye Bye Man doesn't quite understand how to propagate his evil for lasting results
  • oh another thing you might do is fill up a notebook with "crazy person" writing and YES the Bye Bye Man does, in fact, have a Bye Bye Dog

Carrie-Anne Moss is a police...person? Detective, I guess, it's never really stated...that sort of investigates the goings on, by which I mean she interviews DK after Sensitive Friend gets killed but he convinces her that lying is okay sometimes so she lets him go.

Here we see Carrie-Anne Moss reminding herself that the paycheck from her appearance in The Bye Bye Man will put one of her kids through college.

Faye Dunaway appears briefly as the Widda Shotgun Guy From The Beginning, and her advice to DK about The BByeMan Problem is simply "kill everyone else who knows the name and then kill yourself." It's possible that was also her advice to me, the person who rented this garbage.

Our Heroes kind of try to figure out how get out of this mess alive ("I can relate!"–me while watching this movie) and they hallucinate scenarios and situations that never ever fool the audience. Who is The Bye Bye Man? We don't know...and I don't mean that in some esoteric "he is unknowable, a force, a concept come alive" way, like Michael Myers or some shit. I mean his origins aren't touched upon, mysteries go unsolved, it all just happens and then it's over. All we know is that he has a dog, he's got some scars, he sulks, he wears a hooded black robe thing, and his shirt has buttons, which struck me as really weird for some reason. He's a Hot Topic customer? 

In case you haven't caught on by now, this movie is awful. So awful, in fact, that while watching it, I wondered how it even got made. You're telling me that someone plopped down a script with that title and someone else handed over money and everyone just said YES and here we are? Really? How could that be?

And then I figured it out. 

The Bye Bye Man must have been written by a neural network. An AI! 

It's the latest rage: plug a massive dataset into a neural network–like, say, recipes–and the network will learn to create its own recipes. The results are frequently hilarious. And so I posit that someone, somewhere, formed a dataset from a huge amount of horror movie plots and titles and tropes and lo, the AI pooped out this movie. To the evidence mobile!
  • characters frequently speak not as humans actually do, but as exposition machines might: "Hello, brother."
  • all that bog standard horror movie "crazy person" writing
  • the Dollar Tree PontypoolCandyman "people speak him into reality" business, but without the actual urban legend aspect
  • the Dollar Tree Nightmare on Elm Street "maybe if we're not afraid, he's nothing" business (for real, that is a thing someone says)
  • all that Dead Kennedys stuff, surely a computer thought that would be a good character-building idea
  • the amount of "hey you guys, it's not funny"s we get
  • the "scary things" that are BBMan's hallmarks: so many trains, so many coins WHY. None of them are explained, ever. 
  • he "looks creepy" like a bargain basement Slenderman, but then that Henley shirt, what is that
  • the characters immediately figure out that the BBMan is a thing, the cause of all of their strife without actually learning anything
  • someone sees an old timey picture of the BBMan on their Instagram (I KNOW) and it turns into a gif, so creepy!!!!!
  • that title
As you can see, that The Bye Bye Man was created by a neural network is the only reasonable explanation for this mess. On the one hand, it's a remarkable technological achievement, a sign that the future is already here, man. On the other hand, the future obviously sucks! But I suppose we can find solace in the fact that the robots are not quite ready to rise up and subjugate humankind...not in the realm of horror movie-making, at least.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to give my brain a stern talking to. Bye bye, man!


Maxwell said...

You nailed it! They had all the bullet points, but they didn't have anything whatsoever that wasn't lifted from better films. Did it all come together in a logical and interesting manner? No, it did not. But this review is fantastic - an early contender for best movie review of 2017! I urge the AI that wrote this screenplay not to give up it's day job of choosing pop-up ads to match user interests.

Christine Hadden said...

Bye Bye Dog! (*still laughing*) I almost peed a little with that one.
Yes, this movie looks exceedingly bad. I'll take your word for it.

G.A. Redman said...

Yuck! "The Bye Bye Man" is the kind of horror movie that inspires good writers to walk away from blogging about horror movies.

Stacie Ponder said...

Or mediocre ones to come back, apparently! :D

Anonymous said...

Agreed. I was seriously underwhelmed by The Bye Bye Man. Fortunately, I picked it up from the bargain DVD bin. Unfortunately, I still paid more than $0.99.

matango said...

Do radios/record players/etc. start playing creepy versions of "Bye Bye Love," or could they not afford that?

Stacie Ponder said...

YES. Well, DK is driving and so DESPERATE and a "punk" version of the song comes on the radio and he sings along and it's totally MANIC and so frightening.

Steve said...

Worse than an AI program - it was written by a reality show whore. Jonathan Penner was a contestant on Survivor three (?!?) times.
He also plays the cringe-worthy stereotypical gay florist named Mr. Daizy in the film. "Hey Penner, it's not 1967 anymore you fucking homophobe!"

CashBailey said...

THE BYE-BYE MAN is exactly what happens when people who have no respect or love of the genre make a horror movie purely because they think it will make money.

threeattic said...

Oh, Stacey. I was flown to Los Angeles by this production company to watch a preview screening of The Bye Bye Man. (I won a contest I didn't actually know I'd entered. It's a long story that involves picking up a free nightstand in the Big Lots parking lot.)

I met the writer and the director and the producer, and I know I was supposed to then go on the internet and talk about how great it was and get all my horror movie people to watch it. I... didn't do that. The filmmakers were all nice people and all. And since I live in DC, getting a two-day trip to LA was worth watching the movie. And I wanted to support the director, because women directors in horror is something I want to get behind. But... damn.

Anonymous said...

I was puzzled by this one. I found it bad enough that I semi-watched the last 30 minutes. I took that opportunity to sweep the floor, take out garbage, and dig out the cat's toys from underneath furniture.

But! It was directed by Stacey Title, a very interesting (if unprolific) director. She made "The Last Supper" which is one of my favorite movies of the 90s.

I think it was well directed. So I think it's a writing thing. I also found the acting occasionally bad -- which is actually kind of rare because there are so many good actors out there.

Stacie Ponder said...

@rootandanchor - you're not the first person to bring up The Last Supper (in a positive way!)...I haven't seen it but I think I probably should!

Mark Louis Baumgart said...

I've seen this movie twice and I've liked it both times. Yeah, it's a formula thriller, but I liked it, but then, I really like spook movies.