The Empty Man

The Empty Man ★★★

I would looooove to learn the behind-the-scenes drama on this thing, because it was clearly never properly edited (or even touched for TWO YEARS, since it still bears the 20th Century Fox logo at the start - as opposed to the new 20th Century Studios intro - and the copyright in the credits is dated for 2018).

However, it’s honestly really unfortunate that Disney is just straight up dumping this because... there’s something here. I’m not saying it all comes together - it’s far too long and those last 10-15 minutes threaten to derail the whole film - but for most of its runtime, The Empty Man is a terrifically tense lil’ thriller in its own right, part supernatural spookfest, part police procedural, and part mindfuck mystery. James Badge Dale is actually a plucky enough protagonist who earns our empathy over the long run, even if he can occasionally feel like a bit of a blank slate (for reasons that ultimately make sense in the end). The rest of the cast certainly isn’t bad by any means either.

I mean, truthfully, given how unceremoniously this was released (with an ad campaign that literally began A WEEK AGO), I was expecting something on par with The Turning or Slender Man. Now, while I see how a studio would be skeptical to send this off to the public - as it’s not very mainstream in the slightest and far more enigmatic and esoteric than its Candyman-esque trailer lets on - I definitely think they could’ve tried harder and gotten something special in return. I imagine test audiences properly tore it to pieces for its philosophical perplexity, but there’s a difference between a film that is occasionally too ambiguous one that is outright awful. The Empty Man is many things, but it’s no trainwreck.

Can’t say everyone will enjoy this as much as I did, but if you’re at all interested, I recommend you at least give it a shot and make your mind up for yourself instead of paying attention to the 1/2 stars on here. It won’t blow your socks off, but it’s got more than a few spooky surprises up its sleeve.

2020 Ranked

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