If you've ever seen a horror film in the last thirty years then you can probably save yourself the trouble of heading out to see January's latest dumping ground horror release, The Bye Bye Man. A crude collection of the genre's greatest hits plucked out of context and terribly replicated, there's nothing in this incomprehensibly titled film that you won't have seen before. Watching The Bye Bye Man is like sitting through a terrible pub cover band comprised of your Dad's mates banging out The Jam after three and a half pints. If that cover band that was on fire and falling down a flight of stairs while forgetting the words to 'Town Called Malice', anyway.

I'm being a bit harsh, sure, but it's the Dad-after-a-few-pints arrogance of The Goodbye Guy that really gets under your skin and makes the red mist descend. Because the plot itself, as straightforward as it is, is initially kind of promising. The idea is that there's a terrible, shadowy figure haunting the suburbs of the USA, and anyone daring enough to speak its name is as good as dead. It's all classic urban legends fluff, the kind of narrative popularised by Bloody Mary tales and 1992's Candyman, but this latest incarnation admittedly takes the idea one step further. The more you say the name, the more you spread the chaos, infecting anyone who hears it like a virus attached to the human language. In the current political climate it's actually quite a resonant theme; the insistence that stupid ideas can spread like wildfire and cause just as much damage as acts of physical violence.

But what could have been a potentially unnerving set-up loses whatever charm it may have when it's executed this badly. Every single spark of ingenuity The Farewell Fellow has is undermined by repeated attempts to undercut any horror that could have been created. We could spend all day going over the numbskull decision to name the main villain "The Bye Bye Man" in the first place, but the film doesn't just fail to create horror because of a silly name. It fails because it decides to sideline its villain in favour of a CGI dog that looks like it came straight out of 2002's Resident Evil. It fails because it stages the grand unveiling of him in full daylight in an awkward overexposed shot. It fails because we're constantly reminded of other, superior movies where all the same beats are hit so much better.

But like I said previously, weird decisions like these are only amplified because you can tell the movie feels so confident about them. There's no humour to anything that happens (nothing intentional anyway), and they try so, so hard to sell Bill Nigh the Bye Bye Guy as a credible villain all the while continually tripping over themselves. It's frustrating because the movie knows the conventions of the genre and what made the films it admires so scary and good, it just doesn't understand how to use them. It knows which ideas work, but it doesn't know why.

For instance, all great antagonists have calling cards in movies like this; recurring themes that give the often mute characters a bit more depth and a sense of mythology. The people behind the film clearly recognised this and decided that Bye Bye's ominous totem should be a dinky old train. Which, I guess, would be fine, but the movie never feels the need to explain why the Bye Bye Man's Bye Bye Mobile is so important or why we should care/be scared of it. It just knows that all iconic villains have motifs. The Creeper in Jeepers Creepers had his spooky-ass song. The Ring's Samara had the creepy video tape. The Bye Bye Man has an out of commission TransPennine Express.

In fact, just about every idea that The Ta-Ta Gentleman doesn't blatantly rip off, is completely unexplained or dropped by the end of the closing credits. The film fixates on a group of coins for the first third and then forgets about them completely. They're significant somehow but the movie doesn't care, so why should we? It's poor storytelling, and it's only amplified by the terrible performances from the main cast who all try to sell these scenes seriously. The leads alternate between sleep-walking through every sequence and turning the manic energy up to eleven seemingly on a whim. The thing is, I don't think it's their fault either; if the rest of the film is anything to go by then these actors must have been getting some truly perplexing direction.

Which weirdly makes for a film that isn't boring in the way that Ouija or other run-of-the-mill horror flicks are; there's plenty of ideas here, it's just that the talent isn't there to keep the whole thing focused enough to make them work. What you get is a plot that jumps around manically, trying to keep up with the influences it so desperately wants to rub shoulders with. Auf Wiedersehen, Pet knows what it thinks is scary, but it has no understanding of how it needs to articulate this to the audience. Or how to articulate anything. Or how to connect one shot to another. Or how real people talk to each other. Or...

The fact is I could go on all day nit-picking Mr Cyuh Later Alligator but I don't want to. There are so many moments and decisions that come across as completely baffling that it's hard to keep track of them all. So many jump scares that you feel personally insulted by when they get you. And, come to think about it, actually, earlier I said the premise itself was kind of interesting but I've just realised that all they did was smash together the plot of The Ring with Candyman and call it a day. The more you think about it the worse this movie gets.

But even with all this said, I don't think I can hate The Ciao For Now Pal. With everything in the news being how it is, it was nice to be able to focus all that anger into something as inconsequential and as daft as this. And I've got to admit, in its misguided commitment to (some) of its ideas there's a certain charm to just how much of a garbage-fire the whole thing manages to be. The arrogance, the audacity of something as transparently terrible as The Bye Bye Man is exactly what this year deserves so far, and there's something about that that I can get along with.