When three college students move into an old house off campus, they unwittingly unleash a supernatural entity known as The Bye Bye Man, who comes to prey upon them once they discover his name. The friends must try to save each other, all the while keeping The Bye Bye Man’s existence a secret to save others from the same deadly fate.
Launching a new horror franchise is almost always a heavy lift, but several memorable properties have been successfully introduced over the past few years and so far show little sign of fading, including the Insidious, Purge and Conjuring/Annabelle series. The Bye Bye Man apparently seeks to join this group, but by attempting to lay claim to the iconic Friday the 13th release date sets the bar at a challenging height.
Stacy Title (Snoop Dogg’s Hood of Horror) helms this amalgam of haunted house, demon possession and psychological horror elements, which is often involving, although not quite entirely satisfying. Lacking any significant genre-related competition over its opening weekend, STX Entertainment’s PG-13 release could see decent numbers if the company’s saturation marketing campaign can motivate teens to get out of the house and into the theater.
An opening sequence set in 1969 Wisconsin depicts crazed local journalist Larry Redmon (Saw writer-director Leigh Whannell) embarking on a shotgun shooting rampage, murdering eight neighbors before killing himself. Cutting to the present day, college students Elliot (Douglas Smith) and John (Lucien Laviscount) prepare to relocate off campus after signing a lease on a large single-family home, along with Elliot’s girlfriend Sasha (Cressida Bonas), even though she’s never seen the place. They quickly discover that the decrepit house is more in need of renovation than redecoration, but with some old furniture hauled up from the basement they soon make it habitable, despite the home’s frequent squeaks and creaks.
Soon after moving in, Elliot finds some mysterious inscriptions inside the bedside table he shares with Sasha. Handwritten words reading “Don’t think it, don’t say it” are repeatedly scrawled on the bottom of the drawer and when Elliot removes it, he finds the phrase “The Bye Bye Man” carved into the table. He mentions the strange references to Sasha and John, but neither has any idea what they may mean either. After a raucous housewarming party, Sasha’s friend Kim (Jenna Kanell) helps them hold a seance in an attempt to psychically cleanse the house. She quickly calls it off when she detects a malevolent presence, saying “something is coming,” and Elliot suddenly realizes that she must be referring to The Bye Bye Man.
Soon afterwards he begins to catch glimpses of a spectral, cadaverous man lurking around the house, but the others never seem to see him, although they develop their own troubling symptoms. Determined to discover the origin and intentions of the supernatural entity shadowing their lives, Elliot begins to intensively research the Redmon shooting of decades earlier, trying to establish some connection with their current afflictions, but the more he finds out, the more questions seem to arise.