The Empty Man

The Empty Man ★★★½

“The Emptyman made me do it”

After seeing all of the positive reviews for this over the last few days, I finally decided to check out David Prior's debut film, The Empty Man, a few days ago and, honestly, I had no idea what to expect going in. Horror has never been a genre I gravitate towards, but still, the image of the giant skeleton has been ingrained in my mind for some time now. I went in blind, not having read the graphic novel nor having seen the trailer, only knowing that during Disney's acquisition of Fox, they absolutely botched the marketing for it. That's what, for me, made The Empty Man such a pleasant surprise.

The first 22 minutes are some of the eeriest sequences I've seen in a while. It's amazingly shot with a truly creepy atmosphere that transfixed me straight away, even getting to the point where an audible "What the fuck" startled my household. It throws you straight into the mystery with a group of four on a hiking trip and the sequences that transpire from there were truly something special.

From there, the film takes a sudden jolt and places us into the story of an ex-cop, on the trail of a missing girl, who comes across a secretive group attempting to summon a terrifying supernatural entity. It's such a sudden change that it took some time for me to realise what was going on, but the storyline as a whole, for the majority, worked like an utter treat, creating a confusingly chilling narrative that takes an Urban Legend scenario, like Slenderman or The Bye-Bye Man, and creates a unique storyline that, while getting a little too ambitious for its own good at times, is saved by its strong lead performance by James Badge Dale who truly stole the show. 

Nevertheless, I can understand why many will be mixed on the film. The 137-minute runtime creates a long, slow-burn horror tale that takes its simple "urban legend" idea into ambitious territory that doesn’t always work as, by the time it wraps up, it all makes too little sense to fully wow many audience members. But for me, it’s a passion project that’s thought-provoking and beautifully crafted. It’s a truly surreal and strange piece of work, anchored by some top-notch elements that’ll either prove a hit or miss for audiences. While its conclusion will likely leave a few people more annoyed than thrilled, it’s a unique, ambitious film that worked surprisingly well for me. Definitely check it out as the marketing really messed this one up! 
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