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 is a strange coincidence that leads me to review "Shadrach,'' based on a story by William Styron, on the same day as "Beloved,'' based on a story by Toni Morrison. Both are about the aftermath of slavery. In "Shadrach,'' a 101-year-old former slave completes a long trek in order to return to the plantation where he was born and wants to be buried. In "Beloved,'' a mother kills her children rather than have them returned to the plantation from which she has escaped.
It might seem like there are easy points to be scored here against Styron, a white Southern novelist, but that wouldn't be fair. He has amply demonstrated, in The Confessions of Nat Turner, his own understanding of the horror of slavery.
And he is not arguing that the ancient Shadrach wants to be buried on "Dabney land'' out of nostalgia for plantation days under the slave-owning Dabneys. The old man never really explains his motivation, but we sense it is made of nostalgia for his childhood on the plantation, and a feeling that since he worked this land it is more his own than any other land anywhere else.
Still, "Shadrach'' is another one of those well-meaning films, like "Amistad,'' in which slaves are the supporting characters in their own stories. "Beloved'' brings its characters front and center and focuses on how slavery impacted their lives. It doesn't have much screen time for white people, good or bad. It is inescapable that none of the white characters in "Shadrach'' have the slightest inkling of the reality of the experience that Shadrach and the characters in "Beloved'' endured.