Let’s start with the name.

I got chills the first time I saw a cardboard prop bearing the seemingly innocuous moniker. Years of horror archived in my brain referenced that moment when a child lets the grown-ups know something is amiss. Due to little ones’ limited vocabulary, they tend to name the impending evil something familiar—perhaps something they’ve heard in a fairy tale or a nursery rhyme. We wonder if the child, who’s officially become prey, has any idea what kind of shit storm is about to rain down on his life, and we know the adults are clueless.

If you’re thinking of poor Carol Anne in Poltergeist or hearing “One, two, Freddy’s coming for you” right now—you’ve got the right idea but the wrong movie. The Internet is teeming with lofty language about The Bye Bye Man, a film critics are calling banal and derivative. Speaking as someone who often fights the undertow of the mainstream, I have to say there was lots to like about this tale of a relentless supernatural slasher:

  • Douglas Smith’s performance – As leading man, Elliot, the former Percy Jackson actor eradicated the need for a final girl
  • The warm, retro feel of the film, which was provided in context and not forced as a gimmick
  • The fact that viewers had a chance to get invested in the characters before the killing started; regardless of whether we loved them all, the relationships were solid
  • A freak ass bonus monster whose first appearance is not exactly a jump scare but a “WHAT just happened?” kind of happy moment for horror enthusiasts
  • A pivotal appearance by a Hollywood icon (don’t IMDB or Google if you don’t know) who provides another “WHAT?” followed by happy horrified laughter from the crowd

I’ve already alerted the spoilers, so let’s wrap this up.

Remember, we knew very little about Freddy during the first Nightmare movie. The Bye Bye Man could take a cue from Craven’s masterpiece: Keep the killer in the shadows and torture the cast even more.

Walking away from this one, I hope it follows the path I envision for It Follows – multiple sequels—none ridiculous. With the right framework, Doug Jones could make the eponymous killer another Krueger. My next move will be to research the author of the original story, Robert Damon Schneck. Wikipedia says he’s an American author who specializes in “anomalous phenomena” … Cue The Muppets: Phenomenon. Seriously, I hear he’s creepy. Maybe I shouldn’t say it or think it.

If you thought the film was a lame remix of other stories, use that to fuel your own ideas. There’s a fine line between creative and crazy. Sometimes we need to use that line as a jump rope.

For now, Scream Freaks, this is bye bye.


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