The Bye Bye Man is the latest in a tiny horror sub-genre of films that feature killers that can be summoned by simply calling out their name multiple times. Films that have inspired kids everywhere to try the same at home, during sleepovers and slumber parties – to our knowledge, with little success. Here we list some of the best, and a couple of the worst.
The Bye Bye Man (2017)
“Don’t say it, don’t think it; don’t think it, don’t say it.” This mantra is repeated over-and-over throughout The Bye Bye Man – whispered and written down, and spoken and shouted. Trouble is, the curse that follows saying the Bye Bye name is all a bit confusing. It kicks off with piles of coins mysteriously showing up. And hallucinations. There’s the sound of a train. And a big dog appears. Then you go mad and die or go mad and kill everyone. The Bye Bye Man apparently made a teen kill his family decades ago, and a reporter kill his neighbours soon after, and the group of forgettable kids in this film kill each other. Unfortunately, it’s all a bit silly, and rarely makes sense. Don’t say it, don’t think it, don’t watch it.
The brilliant Candyman has a pretty complicated mythology. Born in the late 1800s in Chicago, he was the son of a former slave who made money making shoes. He himself grew up to be a celebrated artist, who fell in love and fathered a child with a white woman. This didn’t go down well with the locals, who captured him, replaced his painting hand with a hook, smeared him in honey, and chanted ‘Candyman’ as bees stung him to death. In modern Chicago, legend says he will appear if you chant his name five times while facing a mirror, and kill those who summon him with his hook or the bees that reside in his torso.
Bloody Mary (2006)
From the best of the bunch to the very worst film on this list. Bloody Mary is based on the urban legend that inspired several of these movies, that revolved around young women walking up stairs backwards holding a candle and a mirror. They might then either see the reflection of their future husband, or something more terrible, indicating they would die before they could become betrothed. That developed into repeatedly chanting the name Bloody Mary into a mirror in a candle-lit room. And in 2006 the legend was used in this forgettable film about a group of nurses playing the game in a psychiatric hospital, then being bumped off by the vengeful spirit of the title. Bloody Mary 3D was also released in 2011, but the less said about that, the better.
Madman combines urban legend with a slasher movie and summer camp horror in pretty entertaining fashion. The film kicks off with counsellors and kids sitting round a campfire to hear the tale of ‘Madman Marz,’ who killed his wife and children with an axe before being hanged. All did not go according to plan however, with Marz somehow getting free and disappearing into the woods, only to reappear to wreak his revenge whenever someone calls his name. A dumb kid called Richie then does just that, with the rest of the film consisting of ‘Madman’ bumping off the counsellors – usually by decapitation – then, transporting them to his cabin in the woods and storing them in the basement. He might be mad, but he isn’t messy.
This one might be a bit of a cheat, as these protagonists are actually dead when they summon the title character. But the lines are so blurred, the narrative so dark, and Betelgeuse himself so brilliantly twisted that we couldn’t leave it out. A recently deceased couple need help scaring the family that have moved into their house, and so contact the titular ‘freelance bio-exorcist’ by saying his name three times. Though struggling at first because they are unaware it’s pronounced Beetlejuice. The couple quickly come to regret their decision, as Beetlejuice abuses the pair, brings chaos to their afterlife, and uses them to achieve his own devious ends. He winds up having his head shrunk by a witch doctor, and now looks set to return in a proposed sequel.