Money must have been in short supply during production of “The Bye Bye Man.” What kind of horror movie begins with a shooting spree whose victims don’t bleed? Couldn’t the filmmakers afford a few exploding squibs? Or at least a bottle of Heinz?
Nevertheless, “The Bye Bye Man” does what it can with what little it has. The story of three college kids and a demon who appears when you say its name, “The Bye Bye Man” doesn’t (or perhaps couldn’t) offer much in the way of special effects. Instead, it uses the most basic resources — sometimes just the actors and a camera — to create a jittery mood of dread and confusion. What’s more, the lively direction by Stacy Title and blithely silly script from Jonathan Penner give “The Bye Bye Man” a welcome sense of humor, a rare quality in a mostly dead-serious genre.
Our hero is Elliot (Douglas Smith), a scholarly dude who knows his Rilke verses and likes the Dead Kennedys. After moving into a strangely affordable house with his girlfriend, Sasha (Cressida Bonas), and his best bud, John (Lucien Laviscount), Elliot discovers a written warning — “Don’t say it, don’t think it” — along with the scrawled name of The Bye Bye Man. When a supposedly psychic classmate, Kim (a brief but intriguing Jenna Kanell), drops by for a seance, Elliot blurts out the name. This is Dumb Mistake No. 1.
The usual creepiness follows — a face in the shadows, a slamming door, etc. — but it’s all fairly well staged and effective. The real fun comes when the roommates begin to hallucinate. In one enjoyably chaotic sequence, all three chase and attack each other in a case of multiple mistaken identities (editing credit goes to Ken Blackwell). Carrie-Anne Moss, as a hard-nosed cop, basically plays the straight man while the kids go cuckoo.
Throw in Faye Dunaway as a local recluse who suggests, deadpan, that Elliot solve the whole problem by killing himself (she even gives him the gun), and you’ve got a horror flick that’s not afraid to be a little goofy. In this dead-movie month of January, you could do worse than “The Bye Bye Man.”