The Empty Man

The Empty Man ★★★½

thought + concentration + time = flesh

I'm about to tread on territory I believe I already have on here, so bear with me, and we'll get through this. As someone who took a very long time to get into horror films, I have often thought about how, at least in literature, I have actually almost always been fascinated in monsters, the supernatural, things that would make me too scared in a visual medium I would get enthralled with if it was written down. Because of that, I grew up reading Goosebumps, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and especially Loren Coleman's Cryptozoology: A to Z, a book about my favorite things ever for a notable time: Cryptids. Creatures that should not exist but theoretically could, ones that had eyewitness testimony and legitimacy in the folklore of places all around the world, that shit was awesome. Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, the Wendigo, give me all of it. My fascination with the macabre and fiction about scary monsters led me to two watershed discoveries: The first is a show I have absolutely mentioned before called Lost Tapes, something that I know isn't necessarily a "great" or even "good" show, but one that as I think about it more and more has to be one of my favorite shows ever. If you like this movie, watch that show for more unique stylization with exploring supernatural entities, it's a gem. Now the second thing, the real connecting thread to this movie, is my discovery of creepypastas. Yep, I was one of those fuckin' nerds in high school that once thought Slender Man, The Rake, Smiley Dog, Jeff the Killer, all of those guys and more were the scariest things anyone could have possibly come up with. Times have changed, but it was admittedly groundwork for what would build to me finally embracing visual horror. One of the other first overtly horror TV shows I would come to love, Channel Zero: Candle Cove, to me perfectly replicated the unshakable feeling of reading what the best kind of horror lit had to offer. It wasn't "scary" so much as it was, taken from the namesake of its subgenre, "creepy." It would send chills down my spine and glue me to the screen whenever there was a new episode. I realize I've been typing for awhile without really even talking about this movie, so know I am being long-winded but I am otherwise saying that if you are someone like me who is fascinated by creepiness, by the unknown, by finding horror in things just outside of our understanding of reality, then The Empty Man is going to be a really worthwhile viewing for you. Whatever kind of dumb teen horror schlock this was made to look like in its marketing, that's the very last thing this actually is. Instead, it's a moody, well-directed, at times incredibly shot meaty slice of existential and even cosmic horror. James Badge Dale, the man himself, makes for a strong protagonist through a story which actually gives a shit about both its blandly named monster, as well as the world and its characters that surround the horror. (Feels like it's been awhile since I've seen a horror film that puts real care into even its smallest characters that meet a poor fate. The murders and images of death in this aren't "brutal" so much as they are "haunting.") Again, like the best of something you would find from a really skilled creepypasta author, it's not exactly "great", but it is willing to push the boundaries it has set up for itself, and in doing so, it's still pretty damn good. Very happy I took a chance on some unexpected genre film gold.


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