Released in the first half of January, The Bye Bye Man was one of 2017’s first horror offerings; so far, it’s also one of 2017’s most derided. As a major studio offering with a nationwide theatrical release, there were a lot of eyes on Bye Bye; it also had stiff competition from films like Split and Get Out. Critics and fans were both underwhelmed and the film holds a dubious 23% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The thing is, The Bye Bye Man is actually a brilliant film. This isn’t a full-on review with a list of strengths and weaknesses; these are a few reasons why Bye Bye Man may have been misunderstood, and a few reasons why I believe it’s so fantastic.
Official Synopsis: People commit unthinkable acts every day. Time and again, we grapple to understand what drives a person to do such terrible things. But what if all of the questions we’re asking are wrong? What if the cause of all evil is not a matter of what, but who? When three college friends stumble upon the horrific origins of the Bye Bye Man, they discover that there is only one way to avoid his curse: don’t think it, don’t say it. But once the Bye Bye Man gets inside your head, he takes control.
The Bye Bye Man was sold on the premise that it introduced a new and terrifying horror villain; posters and trailers featured titular Mr. Bye Bye, played by lauded body actor Doug Jones. When audiences saw the film though, many lamented the villain didn’t live up to the hype, that he was hardly seen and not very exciting when revealed. The thing is, The Bye Bye Man isn’t about a villain at all, and despite the human moniker, the villain isn’t even human. In a sense, The Bye Bye Man is every villain: Legion. In another (in my opinion, more important) sense, he’s a metaphor; the entire film is a metaphor with more in common with It Follows than IT.
The Bye Bye Man is a manifestation of, and a metaphor for, jealousy: The green-eyed monster that mocks the meat it feeds on (the film actually includes a flesh-munching beast that’s pretty chilling). Three college friends move into an old house together, resulting in a Shakespearian tragedy that nothing if not Othello reincarnate. The Bye Bye Man is that insecure itch that festers into something diabolical; growing in intensity and monstrosity until it rears its ugly head with irreparable repercussions. The Bye Bye Man is the enemy of love.
The Bye Bye Man is a manifestation of, and a metaphor for, the darkest parts of ourselves we feel compelled to hide; the big lie we tell any number of little lies necessary to keep hidden; the ugly truth we‘re certain will send our closest friends and loved ones fleeing in disgust. The Bye Bye Man is the chink in our armor that allows fatal infiltration; he’s everything we hate most about ourselves and our worst fears rolled into a single insurmountable leviathan.
Finally, The Bye Bye Man is the evil that invades goodness, the seductive succubus who’s never satisfied, the demon inside the barking dog who refused to give David Berkowitz respite.
The point is The Bye Bye Man is not a physical, tangible ogre; the film shouldn’t have been sold as something it wasn’t and those who saw it can’t be blamed for feeling duped (and therefore unsatisfied). If you saw The Bye Bye Man and didn’t connect, give it another whirl with these interpretations in mind. And if you haven’t seen The Bye Bye Man yet, I highly recommend seeing the unrated version, available now on Blu-ray/DVD Combo pack.
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One last thing; about that silly, somewhat unfortunate name: It’s not just some random moniker. It comes from the song Bye Bye Love by The Everly Brothers and it represents the devastating state this entity leaves his victims in:
Bye bye love
Bye bye happiness, hello loneliness
I think I’m-a gonna cry-y
Bye bye love, bye bye sweet caress, hello emptiness
I feel like I could di-ie
Bye bye my love goodby-eye
I’m-a through with romance, I’m a-through with love
I’m through with a’countin’ the stars above
And here’s the reason that I’m so free
My lovin’ baby is through with me
The Bye Bye Man is directed by Stacy Title from a screenplay penned by Jonathan Penner (based on The Bridge to Body Island by Robert Damon Schneck). Check out the trailer and the poster below, and tell us what you thought about The Bye Bye Man in the Comments section.
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