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.
It happens that within two days I've seen a 52-minute film that seemed bursting with content, and now a 115-minute film that inspires admiration, but also restlessness. The shorter film ("See The Sea"), played just long enough to deliver its horrifying punch line. The longer one ("Inside/Out") has no punch line, and indeed not much of a plot; it's about the arid passage of time in a mental hospital. A director approaching such a subject can either suggest the emptiness and ennui, or attempt to reproduce it. Rob Tregenza, who wrote, directed, photographed and edited "Inside/Out," chooses the second approach.
His film takes place in the late 1950s, in a cold and lifeless autumn or early spring, in a mental hospital of whitewashed walls and barren interiors. The institution isn't on the cutting edge of treatment; it's more like a holding cell for patients, a waiting room before death. The patients wander the grounds, sometimes try to run away, line up for their pills, are angry or morose, mill about aimlessly at a dance, attend religious services and stand stock still as if lost in thought.
Their actions are watched by Tregenza on the Cinemascope screen, the widest gauge available. The film covers an enormous expense of screen, and is often photographed in long shots, so that the characters seem isolated within vast empty spaces. In one sequence two men shoot some baskets (one is completely uninvolved), and in the background there is a man dressed in black who simply stands, swaying slightly, the whole time.
One point of the wide screen may be to emphasize how little contact these people have with one another. They're looked over by nuns (Episcopalian, I gather), who give them their pills, issue instructions ("No sitting on the tables!") and enforce standards (a female character undresses and tries to snuggle up to another inmate, only to be yanked away by a nun hissing, "You little whore!"). The lives of the people on the screen--patients and caretakers--seem bereft of happiness.