We can talk about how bad it is in a minute (spoiler alert: very bad), but first, I think we should pay full respect to the title of The Bye Bye Man. It is just spectacularly the worst thing ever. I would prefer, as a dignified adult filmgoer, to loudly ask the ticket seller for admission to Cum Slurping Ass Whores 19 than to The Bye Bye Man. And of course, it just gets worse in that this is a horror movie about a wrathful demon-ghost thing, and not, say, a gender-swapped remake of The Goodbye Girl, and that "the Bye Bye Man" isn't just a metaphorical description, but the demon-ghost thing's actual name. So we have, throughout the movie, the awesome spectacle of seeing terrified young people with eyes wide as saucers saying "the Bye Bye Man!", and somehow this is meant to intensify rather than completely deflate the aura of terror that the film is trying to inculcate.

Alright, so as for the movie itself, this is apparently just one more in the never-dying line of movies about people who move into a old house, and find an old piece of furniture, and then accidentally use it to open a Hellmouth. You know, your Sinisters and Insidiouses, and the huge pile of movies that are basically Sinister or Insidious but not remotely as good. From that description, you might reasonably assume that The Bye Bye Man is merely poor, in the manner of so very many poor horror movies, with the colorful addition of one of history's worst-named ghosts. This would be very much the wrong assumption. The Bye Bye Man is anything but "merely" poor: it's bad in almost every way that I can think up for a movie to be bad, including some ways that I honestly couldn't. Because I'd take for granted that after reaching a certain level of an incompetence, a film production would be unable to acquire a sufficiently legendary movie star like Faye Dunaway, to add profound mortification to the rest of the sorry experience of watching the film. The Bye Bye Man teaches me that I was wrong.

The place: Madison, Wisconsin. The time: long enough ago that a pair of boys who were first-graders in 1992 could be college students, though I'm fairly confident that I've already thought more about the prop where that date is established than the filmmakers who placed it in a dramatic close-up. Or maybe we're meant to assume that our protagonists are 28-year-olds who have been in school for 10 years without graduating, which would be about right for how much intelligence they display throughout the movie. Anyway, our main characters - best buddies Elliot (Douglas Smith) and John (Lucien Laviscount), and Elliot's girlfriend Sasha (Cressida Bonas) - are very enthusiastic about moving out of the dorms at BW University (ah yes, good ol' BW-Madison, Wisconsin's foremost university) and into a house off-campus. It's one of those houses that's hellishly creepy from the get-go, with Elliot and Sasha setting up in a room with inexplicable tiny little doors whose only plausible function is to allow skinless hellhounds to poke their heads into the room, during a shot that lets us know quite early on not to expect The Bye Bye Man director Stacy Title to show off too much in the way of good handling of horror atmosphere.

Anyway, there's a haunted nightstand in this bedroom, first discovered by Elliot's little niece Alice (Erica Tremblay), when she wanders upstairs during a raging college house party. She was brought there by her parents, Virgil (Michael Trucco) and Trina (Marisa Echeverria), who also supplied all of the alcohol. Virgil and Trina are maybe not good people, y'all. When Alice brings this eldritch furnishing to the Elliot's attention, he finds a hastily-written scrawl inside the drawer, just the phrase "Don't think it, don't say it" written over and over again on the lining. And below this lining, the words "The Bye Bye Man" angrily scratched in the wood. Elliot thinks this, then says it.

And from here the thing writes itself: the Bye Bye Man (Doug Jones) is a spindly figure in a black cape, who we see far too much of far too quickly, and can thus never take him seriously ever again, because he looks like a makeup student's disastrous first attempt at trying to make a latex mask. He also has an evil dog as his familiar, and it is never anything but abysmally fucking goofy, having apparently been rented from one of the earlier Resident Evil games. We never learn what the Bye Bye Man is, or what the crap the dog is all about, but we do learn how he works: he's a communicable disease, basically, because once anybody says "the Bye Bye Man" aloud, he infects the mind of the listener, and makes them hallucinate things that cause their death. The only solution that occurs to any character besides Eliot is to murder everybody to whom they said the name, and then kill themselves, as we see in the film's prologue, as well as in the behavior of Kim (Jenna Kanell), Sasha's friend who slept with John the night that Elliot unleashes the Bye Bye Man on all of them. Otherwise, there's no stopping him: the Bye Bye Man will stalk you implacably to death. This is based on an urban legend, collected by Robert Damon Schneck as part of his 2005 The President's Vampire, but it's still an obvious rip-off of It Follows, which was enjoying its celebrated film festival run right at the time that the rights to Schneck's story were optioned.

The characters behave like idiots, because that's what characters in horror movies do, and their idiocy leads to death. But there's not a blessed, solitary thing to compensate for this boilerplate foolishness: the jump scares are telegraphed so badly, and paced so sluggishly, that there's not even the most basic kind of physiological fear response exists. It is a profoundly boring and neutral horror movie. It's also outrageously badly-acted, with Bonas reliably over-stating everything and reacting to other characters like an alien anthropologist on human field study who didn't read any of her homework, and Smith (who looks painfully fatigued, like keeping his eyes open is all that he has the mental capacity for) attempting to compensate for his lack of emotionalism by stating it very loudly. Dunaway's humilating cameo isn't even the only one in the film: somehow, Carrie-Anne Moss gets off even worse, as a cynical cop whose microscopic role has been apparently inflated to give her more to do, which still counts for virtually nothing.

How I wish this was all campy or fun in some way! But even camp requires a certain level of flair. The Bye Bye Man is just pure incompetence, not at all scary, full of bored and boring characters. January horror is always the worse, but this is bad even by January standards: I do believe this is the worst wide-release horror film I've seen since The Devil Inside in 2012.