Film Review: The Empty Man
Director: David Prior
Cast: James Badge Dale, Marin Ireland, Stephen Root, Ron Canada, Robert Aramayo, Joel Courtney, Sasha Frolova.
Running Time: 137
Australian Distributor: 20th Century Studios
In its simplest form, The Empty Man is a cobbled together patchwork of other movies; an echo of past joys and woes from the big screen merged together to form one underwhelming film.
To be fair though, the first act in this film is really quite good. We open to four hikers exploring the remote area of Bhutan but one among them hears faint whispers on the air.
As this man steps closer to the cliff edge, he eventually falls to his doom. Only, he’s not actually dead. Instead, he sits cross-legged inside a cave facing an ominous looking skeleton and whispering incomprehensible speech.
Saving him from his fate, the rest of the hikers find refuge in a nearby cabin where things go from bad to worse. After this 20 minute introduction, we then skip forward to follow ex-cop James Lasombra.
This man has a pretty dark history and he’s on the hunt for a missing school student who may be linked to what happened in Bhutan. His search uncovers fragments of a fable known simply as The Empty Man.
As the film progresses, so too does the investigation and the revolving guest appearances of past horror films. In fact, this bizarre, hallucinatory third act – while intriguing and surprising – destroys any credibility the rest of the film builds with a completely nonsensical twist.
When the credits roll, it’s hard not to feel like The Empty Man is an echo chamber of familiar horror film plots. While the suspense is pretty high throughout these genre switches, The Empty Man fails to back that up with a compelling pay-off at the end.
On a positive note though, the sound design in this is incredibly effective at getting under your skin. From the bottle blowing and clicking to the minor tone chords clinging to every scene, The Empty Man’s audio is second to none.
At 2 hours and 17 minutes, The Empty Man is a bloated mess. So much of it feels pointless, at the halfway mark it feels like we’ve changed gears and gone into a completely different bad film. The film spends most of the time just running on fumes, it has no good ideas or clever shocks or even any actual horror that’s worth a damn. The Empty Man had potential, but its story drowned out that potential by trying to do far more than necessary.
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