The Bye Bye Man
The Bye Bye Man is the kind of film that is so boring and bereft of anything of possible interest that it becomes infuriating.
Psychedelic horror film "Antibirth" is a tough sell for even some of the most diehard genre fans. Stylistically, the film is equally unsettling and evocative: gorgeous cinematography, disorienting editing and frequent use of double exposures bring to mind the films of David Lynch, Rob Zombie, Ben Wheatley, Bill Lustig and Damon Packard. But on a narrative level, "Antibirth" is populated almost exclusively by obnoxious, irresponsible, and/or ugly characters. Anti-heroine Lou (Natasha Lyonne), a scruple-less alcoholic and drug abuser, is the most aggressively unlikable character in the film—and she's the film's lead. Still, you don't have to care about Lou as a person to want to know what happens to her after she blacks out during a night-long bender. "Antibirth" is novel, mysterious, and sometimes even dangerous enough to suck you in if you surrender to its confrontational, avant garde style.
Set in a skid row community of druggies, boozers, and military veterans, "Antibirth" sometimes feels like an ungainly combination of "Rosemary's Baby" and "Jacob's Ladder." Lou becomes obsessed with the idea that she's pregnant, though she is certain that she hasn't had sex in months. She is driven almost exclusively by her id. She guzzles tequila, smokes cigarettes, and eats unhealthy snacks with abandon, and rants at best friend Sadie (Chloë Sevigny) about what she will do if she's actually pregnant. Lou curses, mooches off of her friends, watches cartoons, and eventually pushes everyone away. She's not just unlikable: she's often abhorrent.
Writer/director Danny Perez draws viewers in by emphasizing his characters' scuzzy milieu. Perez, who previously worked with psych-rock group Animal Collective on the consummately weird short film "Oddsac," eschews clichés by cultivating the sinister and surreal character of Lou's late-night confrontations, bowling alley rants, and leisurely car rides. Perez's world of iron-pumping drug-dealers, soft-spoken televangelical yogis, and creepy pizza parlor mascots feels strange enough to be worrisome. You're always aware you're watching a filmmaker's mediated view of life among society's dregs. And that's OK, because you never really know where Perez is going to go next.
This movie is peculiar. Its pacing is all-over-the-map. Violence sometimes threatens to break out, but it rarely does in the ways you might expect. Sex is creepy, but sometimes gross in a funny way. Secondary characters, like conspiracy theorist and good samaritan Lorna (Meg Tilly), come and go without much consistency. And while protagonists are often characterized through realistic dialogue (lots of cursing, vernacular, and naturalistic pauses), they're just a dream sequence, pot-induced flashback, or song cue away from becoming subsumed by elusive dream logic. Oh, and this film is also kinda funny, but never in a laugh-out-loud way. It's icky, mean-spirited and bizarre. And I left it feeling like I had just seen something new; I wanted more.
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