If “The Bye Bye Man” feels familiar, it’s because you have seen movies before and your brain is capable of forming memories. Congratulations on that! You’re more advanced than the people who made “The Bye Bye Man,” who thought they were doing something original. (I assume. If they were making formulaic garbage on purpose, well, kudos.)
Set in Madison, Wis., it’s about boring college student Elliot (Douglas Smith) and his boring girlfriend Sasha (Cressida Bonas), who move into a giant old house together, with Elliot’s boring best friend John (Lucien Laviscount) along to help with rent (which must be thousands of dollars a month, as it’s roomy enough to be a fraternity house). Sasha’s primary characteristic is being pretty — it’s mentioned frequently — while Elliot and John are defined by their crap I shouldn’t have started this sentence if I didn’t know how I was going to end it.
Guess what? There’s a spooky bedside table in the basement (if you know what I mean). Someone has scrawled “Don’t think it, don’t say it” all over it. The “it” that one is urged not to think or say is the title boogeyman, an ill-defined demon who, if thought of or mentioned, will gradually sort of show up and make you do murders, kind of. (Yes, the terrifying phrase that you should never speak or think is: “the Bye Bye Man.” ARE YOU NOT CHILLED??)
Soon enough, Elliot, Sasha, and John, having spoken of “the Bye Bye Man,” all start having hallucinations that inspire jealousy, rage, or disgust, or that make them zone out and lose an hour here and there. Now, visions of things that aren’t there and wouldn’t be scary if they were, are, by definition, not scary, yet director Stacy Title puts most of her eggs in that basket. (Her other basket is the Bye Bye Man himself, a gaunt fellow who appears at random intervals, and his CGI hell-hound. They, too, are not scary.) Throw in a psychic (Jenna Kanell), a research trip aided by a preposterously helpful and knowledgable librarian (Cleo King), and a visit to an old woman who remembers the past (Faye Dunaway, somehow), and you’ve got yourself a generic, pointless, thrill-less PG-13 horror movie! You can have it.
D+ (1 hr., 36 min.; )