Coming to Blu-ray from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment and director Stacy Title is a thriller that will keep you from poking your toes outside the covers with “The Bye Bye Man.”
Three college students find an old house off campus and move in not knowing they have a tenant of another kind. An entity called the Bye Bye Man is just waiting to come out — and the students, without knowing, open the supernatural door for him.
I am a fan of well-done horror films, and director Stacy Title has given us just that. With creepiness oozing from every frame, I was thrilled at the opportunity to speak with her about where the idea came from and her vision for bringing the frights to all of us.
Jeri Jacquin: Hi Stacy, I’m so excited to talk with you today, and thank you for talking the time to talk about “The Bye Bye Man” that’s on Blu-ray this week. I’m excited to talk to you for several reasons, but the main one is that it is rare to find a female director in the horror genre.
Stacy Title: Yes, you are right, it is a rare thing.
JJ: How did you become involved in the film, and I know your husband Jonathan Penner worked on the screenplay as well?
ST: I tell you that it was luck and friendship, as Trevor Macy is a dear friend of mine and fans always had wanted us to do something together. The script for “The Bye Bye Man” came, and it really wasn’t in the shape that I wanted it to be in but there was something in it that intrigued me. My husband Jonathan and I started breaking it down and split the roles very clearly. He did most of the writing and I wanted the definition of me as the director fully realized.
I’ve had people ask me if I’ve co-directed with my husband, and I tell them I’ve never done it before. We got the script the way we wanted and my friend Jeffrey Soros from LAMF partnering with Simon Horsman and they financed the movie. It’s really a lucky thing of having a fan and a good friend putting those pieces together. Without all of these things coming together I would never have gotten a shot at this.
JJ: What was it about the story initially that intrigued you?
ST: I loved that the Bye Bye Man can hurt you without touching you — that he can turn you on yourself by playing on your weaknesses. I thought that was really unique and original. Further, I am really interested in the idea of fear and paranoia today is a large part of our lives, and that intrigued me too.
You can hurt yourself by being to afraid, by being too paranoid about life. There are going to be links to the mythology that will be made available to people as well. It will explain the DNA of the movie a little more about the coins and the trains. I think people will understand even more fully what I intended.
JJ: I understand that it was based on the piece “The Bridge to Body Island.” Did you dig further into that?
ST: That story is incredible and that’s in a book called “The President’s Vampire.” I believe and it has a lot of really interesting stuff.
I can’t verify there were three grad students that this happened to, but there was a great amount of material that was useful. One of the things is how the Bye Bye Man was murdered, that he was left on a train, his eyes burned out with coins and all the things they did to him. The book had some wonderful detail and we turned that into a movie because it wasn’t a natural movie with the work.
JJ: Is this a genre you enjoy?
ST: I love it, I have to say. I’m a real horror geek. I love science fiction and fantasy as well. Oh, I just love all movies and genres, but I do genuinely love horror. I love that feeling of being afraid, and I find that interesting. I also enjoy scaring people, too.
JJ: Do you think it is that rush we get knowing we will walk out of the theater in one piece after watching a horror film?
ST: It’s so true! It’s a wish fulfillment, like, can I be on the edge of a cliff, fall and survive it. It’s very satisfying and makes you appreciate the world you live in. The expression is “enjoy each day as if it’s your last,” but a horror movie can make you believe that more.
JJ: There is nothing like that roller coaster of emotions and walking out of the film with a nervous laugh saying, “Ha! I survived!” But inside your heart is still pounding a bit.
ST: In my bedroom in the middle of the night there was something hanging on my door and it looked like the Bye Bye Man! You see shapes and dark things that test all of those scary feelings. I also think what is fun is the community of going to see the film in a theatre.
JJ: I was so thrilled to learn that Doug Jones was playing the character of the Bye Bye Man. He does such amazing work.
ST: Yes, he is amazing and I was so thrilled that he was on our project. Have you ever met him?
JJ: Yes, I spoke to him as well for another project he did.
ST: He is the sweetest most genuine person you have ever met, such a delightful, lovely and a thoughtful person. It is so interesting that he can convert that. He completely channels the darkness for this character and how he can use his body with the smallest movement. He gets so much out of so little. He is funny, scary and brilliantly dramatic actor and I am very lucky to have gotten him.
JJ: He is just amazing.
ST: I love him.
JJ: You have a wonderful cast that comes together strong for the film. When it all came together did you think, “Yep, this is it!”?
ST: Totally, I’ve have a lot of luck in my life with casting, and I’ve had great experiences with actors. I don’t know if it’s because my husband is an actor who has done television and film as well as “Survivor.” When I did my Oscar nominated short, I had Jason Alexander and Edward Asner, with “The Last Supper” I had Bill Paxton and Cameron Diaz, so I am very ambitious to get the best person for each part. So for “The Bye Bye Man” I was completely happy and agree with you about the cast.
JJ: When it came to doing the effects for the film, how was that for you knowing that you see one thing in your head and have to create that on the screen?
ST: I think we were overly ambitious with the amount of financing we had. There are some shots that didn’t work or didn’t look good. If anything it made me realize is that I need to hold out to expand the budget in the effects area to get those things absolutely perfect. I’m very happy with a lot of what we did. There are things that are beautiful and I wouldn’t change them.
JJ: I’m glad to hear you understood what to use and what to leave out. It seems a lot of the horror films just throw everything but the kitchen sink at a film and it sort of ruins it for me. It’s a way of saying that we have to watch and accept it. I don’t think audiences are buying that anymore.
ST: I agree so much. I think there is a judiciousness that you have to have when things aren’t really perfect and accept that it has to be cut. I believe you are right that things are just shoved into films and people are expected to just let it fly and it doesn’t.
JJ: I have found in the last couple of years is that the blood and gore just don’t tell a story for me which is why I stopped watching my favorite genre for a while. You have gone back to scary and tension. You can have a little gore but give me suspense, creaks, rustling bushes!
ST: Really the feeling of something awful is about to happen, and I so think that is important. The jumps are great to release a little of the tension but it’s the tension, the dread and that identifying with the characters, I think that works much better and is more important.
JJ: It’s like when Willy Wonka is watching something bad happen to one of the kids and he says, “The suspense is terrible! I hope it will last!”
ST: You are hilarious. <laughing> What a great metaphor.
JJ: I love the tension! <laughing> I don’t need a lot of the other stuff, just give me the feeling of body aches when I leave the theater because I’m exhausted from the tension.
ST: When we were early humans and living day-to-day and moment-to-moment we had to listen as if our lives depended on it in the forest because something could get us. That’s that tension you are talking about, I love it.
JJ: Yes, that primal fear that knows that at a drop of the hat something could happen and we’d have no control over it. You give us that safety of not having control, it’s hard to describe.
ST: Absolutely, taking you on that ride and to the edge. We knew the last hallucination of the film was extremely important. You had to think what was happening to Sasha was happening and the dread with the running down the hall. If I hadn’t set everything up at the beginning no one would want to take that ride.
JJ: Exactly. OK, I love you.
<At this point we are both laughing>
ST: I love you too! You get it — you really understand how to put that together because it’s not easy to do. I like that you understand why you like it — you’re like a shrink!
JJ: Actually I have four adult children and we all love horror films. We love that feeling of terror but feeling safe. I’m not going to lie though; my feet do not dangle over the bed at night.
ST: When you are alone at night and you sort of see something rustling around, I admit to having a little bit of fright outside the movies. I do like the movie thing because you are right, I’m safer sometimes more than real life.
JJ: I think it helps us with those little creepy moments like going from our car to the front door which is a ten-second walk but we hear things and see shadows and fumble with our keys to get in the door.
ST: That funny sound when you slam the door and then there is a funny sound coming from upstairs and now that creepy is in the house. I live in an old house that makes noise which doesn’t help.
JJ: I have a cat who thinks it’s funny to scare the daylights out of me.
ST: Does he jump out?
JJ: I have a staircase with space between the stairs and he just rubs on my ankle as I walk up. It is the creepiest feeling in the world!
ST: Oh my gawd, that is so funny!
JJ: When people see the film on Blu-ray, which is amazing, what do you want them to take away with them?
ST: I want them to see that fear and paranoia bring you down and that it can take over your life. You have to make a choice not to let that happen. I think the concept behind “The Bye Bye Man” is that you really get lost in your fear and by living in that fear it can hurt you – especially today.
JJ: You are so right Stacy; I had an amazing time talking to you about “The Bye Bye Man.”
It was amazing having such a fantastic conversation with Stacy, and I am still thrilled to have been able to chat about horror films and what makes us love it so. “The Bye Bye Man” is a fright fest that now on Blu-ray gives us a reason to turn off the lights, cuddle up on the sofa with your favorite hero/heroine and enjoy the ride.
In the end — the evil behind the most unspeakable acts has a name!