The Bye Bye Man opens intriguingly enough. In a flashback to 1968, an as-yet-unidentified man (Leigh Whannell) kills a number of people in their homes in what appears to be a psychotic episode. Wiping people out as he furiously interrogates them about whether they’ve said aloud a name they’re apparently forbidden from repeating, it turns out that He Who Shall Not Be Named is the demonic entity The Bye Bye Man. We don’t know it yet, but this is our first glimpse into the film’s bizarre central conceit, which from here on out is at best non-threateningly daft, and at worst a narrative and logical black hole.
Marcus Dunstan, writer of later Saw franchise entries and director of the under-rated The Collector and sequel The Collection, sticks to the claustrophobic framework that has worked for him in the past on third feature The Neighbour.
Set almost entirely within one house, the influence of Austrian auteur Michael Haneke is stamped all over Goodnight Mommy, a stunning statement of intent from writer/director duo Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala that manages to deliver a steady stream of escalating tension without ever threatening to overplay its hand.