While some horror releases are comfortable within a familiar territory, others attempt to expand beyond what viewers may expect. Of course, the more complicated the narrative, the higher the risk of failure. However, when done well, the results yielded can sometimes be quite special. Directed by David Prior, The Empty Man is a movie that wears the veil of a cliché horror film, soon revealing itself to be far deeper than you would expect. Although there are clear flaws present, this surreal experience is one that you won’t soon forget.
In search of a missing girl, an ex-cop finds himself entangled in a conspiracy involving a supernatural entity and a secretive organisation. Our lead is James Badge Dale and he is accompanied by Marin Ireland, Sasha Frolova and Stephen Root.
The Empty Man is an impressive film in many regards. It’s shot admirably (thanks to the cinematography by Anastos N. Michos) and the overall direction by David Prior is undoubtedly solid. Furthermore, there are many sequences that will give you honest chills and leave you quite scared. With this strong framework built, it is the furniture inside it that makes this release stand out from others.
To begin, the movie sets itself up as a typical slasher and for a period it portrays itself as one too. However, once the narrative unfolds, it soon becomes clear that we are embarking on a journey that is far more layered than previously thought. The always fantastic James Badge Dale leads us along this highly engaging path, delivering a performance fit for the many bizarre sequences that occur. This is a film that gets crazy in the best way possible, slowly ramping up the story until we reach a point where the initial prologue becomes almost unrecognisable. Bending genres and exploring themes far beyond our earthly plane, there is a lot to like for those committed to the ride. Although, despite its many qualities, it does sometimes feel overstuffed. A fault that may have been fixed with more precise editing and a tighter script.
At almost 2 hours and 16 minutes, The Empty Man does feel a little long at points. This compounded with the dense narrative means that there are several scenes that will leave viewers rather confused. The movie is intentionally obscure too, which also hinders and much as it helps. Whether or not the entire script makes sense is up to debate, but it will certainly have you thinking about it long past the arrival of the credits (which is more than most films can achieve).
Confidently complex, The Empty Man is a modern horror release that stands on its own. In spite of the flaws in its writing and editing, the final product still offers a unique and incredibly powerful experience. If you are at all curious to watch it, the best suggestion would be to go in as blind as possible, as this is a movie that rewards those that know little about it.