Last week The Bye Bye Man came out on Blu-Ray and DVD in a special unrated version that was not shown in theaters. As originally shot, Director Stacy Title’s horror thriller was far grittier, a lot gorier and, to hear her describe it, a better film.
To meet the very exacting standards of the MPAA, the organization that specifies what rating a film will get, Producer Trevor Macy, Screenwriter Jonathan Penner, and Director Title had to mold a less brutal film from the footage that was produced.
Just after the brilliant makeup demonstration featuring KNB Effects Studio founder Robert Kurtzman at last weeks Monsterpalooza, we had the chance to sit and talk with Macy, Penner, and Title about the new version of The Bye Bye Man that is available now, along with following up on some of the questions asked during the Kurtzman panel.
HorrorBuzz: Okay, before we start, I have to hear about what it was like to be in the audience when Faye Dunnaway messed up and read “La La Land” for Best Picture.
Stacy Title: Well you know it was so strange. We were starting to walk out. My managerDannie Festa produced Trolls and that was up for a Oscar so we went out of our way to go. We were up in the top mezzanine and we were thinking, “You know, we better go because we want to get to the Lionsgate party and so we better get going.” And we get to the end of the aisle and there’s all this weird… Remember when he (Warren Beatty) was stalling? And my first thought was “There’s gonna be drama.” But then, when I actually heard the whole story I was fascinated.
Did you know that Sammy Davis Jr. in 1964 was also handed the wrong envelope? And he handled it with grace and aplomb.
Trevor Macy (Producer): Mmhm, I saw this video.
ST: He read the wrong winner, he is told he has the wrong one, he says, “Oh I should complain to the NAACP” and then…
HB: They went on with it.
ST: Yeah I think that he (Beatty) was telling her, “Look it says Emma Stone!” and she wasn’t wearing her glasses, and…
HB: And she just said, “La La Land.” I mean how much do you love her?
Jonathan Penner (Screenwriter): Faye Dunaway is a consummate professional! (The table laughs) Look. Faye Dunaway is a legend. and there are reasons that people become legendary. Listen this is what I will say about Faye Dunaway. She will not leave the set until every single person working on that set has a Faye Dunaway story
ST: I have to say that at the Academy Awards I was like, “Of course.”
HB: Talk to us about The Bye Bye Man.
ST: He is scary! I am excited to have this version of the film coming out. It makes me very happy. I’m excited to see the extra clips, the extra material. The chemistry of the movie, the backstory of the movie, the stuff that isn’t in the original version. I’m excited for people to understand and get that backstory. When you are making a film, editing, cutting it together, you know, you get notes. A lot of that stuff was cut. The backstory with the train, the coin, I think we would have pleased people more if they had gotten to see some of that stuff.
Another reporter at the table spoke about the backstory that The Bye Bye Man was actually born an albino African-American, and asked if some of this mythology was making it into the unrated version.
ST: No, No, because that was part of how he looked, that’s why he looked that way. Because you know what happens in Africa, it’s terrible. They think that they’re like, demons, and torture them and we wanted to give him that look. I think that if we get to do more of them I’d like to go into that backstory and do a bit more with it. I think it’s a very interesting reason to torture someone. And the fact that they dispose of his body by dumping it on a train. I thought “That’s a great way to get rid of a body.”
JP: Cutting his toungue out, cutting his dick off, burning his eyes out, making him kill his own dog, setting him on fire…
The reporter says that it recalls a lynching.
TM: Yeah and that is essentially teased out. We developed that backstory a little bit as a means of developing the character, but its roots are in the short story.
HB: Would you call this the “definitive” version of The Bye Bye Man?
ST: If everyone sees the clips of the tongues being absorbed into the coat of the dog. Basically, when The Bye Bye Man kills his victims, he cuts out their eyes and their tongues and the eyes and tongues from his victims get absorbed into the dog. The dog is a walking embodiment of all of the pain from his victims. That scene is not in this cut, but I would love for people to see it. And there is a little bit more of Faye Dunaway where she explains a bit more.
HB: Is it in the deleted scenes?
ST: I don’t know if it’s on the Blu-ray for sure as a deleted scene but I know it’s gonna be available.
ST: I think that, with the Unrated cut as it’s called will make people who were a little dissatisfied with that stuff happier.
TM: I think from a filmmaking point of view, this is the cut that we wanted out there. So, in that sense it is definitive. I think it shows Stacy’s best ideas and it’s undiluted.
ST: I think undiluted is the right word. When you go through that process, when you make an “R” movie, and everyone knows it’s gonna be an “R” movie, then you go back and you say, we’re gonna do this “PG-13” thing, it’s hard.
The movie had a great life as a PG-13 movie but now we can go back and think, “Okay how do we really want to burn Dunaway’s character in her scene? How do we really want to kill Sasha? How did we really really intend for the opening shot to be.?”
TM: And a lot of that stuff knocks you back when you see it. It lands as intended I think.
JP: Some of the humor, some of the sexuality, the nudity, it’s there.
ST: Yeah the sex scene is a little more graphic.
Aside from that we actually had a lot of fun making visual quotations from other horror movies too. I mean, making The Bye Bye Man iconic was a challenge and we should credit the beginning with Aaron Sims. He did some really beautiful sketches. That started us off and that took us all the way to third base. We just had to take it home. He’s Brilliant.
Another thing. We had Doug Jones. Having Doug Jones to act in that makeup, that was not easy.
TM: Not only is that a genius thing about Doug but it’s a genius thing about Kurtzman. He knows performance, it’s why his work is so good. I mean you could come up with this amazing idea but Kurtzman will be the first to say, “Well that is a great idea but it won’t work because you are covering your best asset. It helped actually in getting from conceptual designs to functioning piece.
Musing on the origin story of The Bye Bye Man, saturated with racial prejudice and torture Screenwriter Jonathan Penner brings up the issue of having a villain that is sympathetic.
JP: It was in interesting question, on how much sympathy to give him.
ST: Yeah we talked about that all the time.
JP: Because the minute he becomes sympathetic, he’s not scary. Fair enough, it becomes a much more complex story but we decided that, at least for this one, this was the hero’s story, that The Bye Bye Man was the malevolent force.
The minute you take Pinhead and make him this guy that has been searching for the box, or the minute you take Freddy and you make him this poor, rapey janitor, then he becomes the jokester. There was this very delicate line.
ST: Should we be able to go back again we will explore more of his backstory and have the person who wants to spread it. I mean really I never thought we would have to make two versions of the same movie but it’s actually a great experience to have. Even if you get slammed for it, you have the experience of working with those notes and try to do a good job with them, you know, it was hard, but it was fun.
It was so much harder to get an original monster movie get made because you want it to be iconic. You want it to be a part of that pantheon and its hard to get that. I mean, you have seen the turn out to meet Robert Englund. (Referring to the 3 hour wait to meet Robert Englund just inside Monsterpalooza) That’s not gonna go away and to try to enter that is exciting.
TM: Oh but it’s a high bar. When you have a movie you want to come out on 2,500 screens to live a long time, you want to make him good, but modern, but distinct.
JP: That is one thing that you can’t, we can’t, maybe none of us at the table can control, is who or what becomes iconic, right? I mean, Jason wasn’t the bad guy in the original Friday the 13th, Leatherface was a small part of that story, and Pinhead became more and more important. So if you say”I’m gonna make an icon!” Well, the chances of it working are poor and if you aren’t actually making a scary movie with something that resonates, it aint gonna work.
ST: That’s one thing that I loved about this character is that he worked on your weaknesses. What you are gonna see is gonna be different from somebody else and that he doesn’t have to touch you to hurt you, I love that.
TM: I think that when STX got involved and saw the potential of it they were really supportive of us knowing that it had the potential to be iconic. But it is different because it’s like “what is he DOING?” In the marketing material there was this pull to show him doing something. This character is all psychological, gas lighting, dread.
ST: He could touch your forehead and show you the future but, I mean, that’s not as scary.
TM: Which is not to say STX wasn’t supportive of the idea, they were. But when you try to distill an idea down into a 15 second tv spot it gets a little difficult. They did a great job in the end though.
ST: Yeah I honestly love what STX did.
When questioned about their personal monsters and where they live, the trio of filmmakers responded…
ST: I’m a control freak, so I need order and control.
JP: My monsters live in the same place they have lived since I was five or six. I mean, you spend the first 7 years of your life packing your bag, this is what Jung said, and the rest of your life unpacking your bag and figuring out everything that happened to you. That’s where my monsters live.
TM: Mine live everywhere honestly. I have never gotten over the idea of being frightened by a scary idea.
Leaving us with that insidious notion the interview was over. Speaking again with Director Stacy Title, Screenwriter Jonathan Penner, and Producer Trevor Macy, I was reminded of how genuinely enthusiastic they are for the creation of film. They get it. There is a passion to tell a story, to show the audience something they have not seen before that is beguiling. Here is to their efforts to create icons, and we look forward to checking out the unrated cut of The Bye Bye Man which is available now on Blu-Ray and DVD.