The Empty Man (2020)
March 24, 2021 12:25 PM - Subscribe

On the trail of a missing girl, an ex-cop comes across a secretive group attempting to summon a terrifying supernatural entity.

This Thrillist article contains a bit of background on the movie, and an interview with director David Prior:

Are audiences hungry for movies like The Empty Man? The movie's box office performance would suggest a definitive no, but, since becoming available as a digital rental in 2021, the film has taken on a second life online, where podcast hosts and viewers on platforms like Twitter and Letterboxd have sung its praises, turning it into the rare 21st century studio project that earns the over-used descriptor of "cult movie."
posted by holborne (7 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I saw this last night on Amazon and liked it a lot, enough that I'd like to watch it again to see if I notice things I didn't notice the first time. I kind of figured out where it was going about halfway through, as the main character (played by James Badge Dale) kept waltzing into buildings and rooms that he never would have been able to waltz into if someone hadn't affirmatively wanted him to. But only kind of. The opening set piece is really good, too.

Bonus: Stephen Root in a very Stephen Root role.
posted by holborne at 3:06 PM on March 24


OK I was intrigued but Stephen Root sold me.
posted by miss-lapin at 4:52 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]


So I finally watched it and hmmm. I think the creepiest parts were definitely the cult scenes particularly the mass chase in the woods. Those moments were to me when the movie really lived up to its promise because managed to tap into menacing dream like scenes that were no danger of becoming silly. The director needed to trust that more than the cgi effects, which were fairly standard if you watch a lot of this kind of thing. (I watch waaaaaaaaay too much of this kind of thing.)

Unfortunately to me once Amanda reveals the twist, the movie pretty much devolves predictably, but not quickly for a movie that is over 2 hours.

It is fairly well done and definitely worth at least one watch if not two.
posted by miss-lapin at 9:58 AM on March 26


I actually really enjoyed this, in kind of a cult-movie way, and think it may well be a work of secret genius because of its overall batshittedness and willingness to cram every idea its writers had into the movie. It doesn't really make a lick of sense when you think about it, but I thought there were some great weird little moments, like the bonfire scene and subsequent chase, and the protagonist's repeated insistence that he grew up in San Francisco, so...
posted by whir at 11:42 AM on March 30


Finally got to see this last weekend, and wow did it delight me on multiple levels. The sound design was excellent, and hearing the opening tones of a Lustmord track from The Word as Power during the first exploration of the mountain cave (and throughout the rest of the film) got me far too excited.

The title card missing the central 'P' from Empty is real interesting on a couple levels, and I'm kiiiinda convinced it's a reference to the concept of a p-zombie which has some resonant concepts with the plot, but might also just be a callout to the silent emptiness at the center of the titular entity.

I was worried that being familiar with the concept of a tulpa would end up spoiling the film's ending, but the actual execution of the final act put those concerns to rest, heh.

Also delightful - a film being deeply eldritch and unsettling without being explicitly Lovecraftian. One of the best horror films I've seen since The Void.

After watching, I went back to read the source material as this is based on a short comic series... which is interesting but not nearly as good overall. The movie could be framed as a prequel to the comic timeline, which has 'Empty Man' related cults being a much more widespread phenomenon precipitating social collapse. However after that it turns into a monster hunt and gets far too focused on explaining exactly how the process works and kind of demystifies the whole narrative, unfortunately.
posted by FatherDagon at 9:04 AM on April 5 [4 favorites]


I thought this was excellent. The trailer is terrible, selling it as a generic variant Bye Bye Man (uuugh). A lot more going on here.

What I love most is the cinematography and shot composition along with a moody Lustmord soundtrack. It's a slow burn, very confidently make film with a great creepy atmosphere. Echoes of It Follows and Hereditary. The pre-title card sequence works well as a contained short horror movie.

I also appreciate that the film relies on a creeping sense of dread rather than cheap jump scares. That skeleton at the start is truly a wonderful, unsettling image.
posted by slimepuppy at 7:01 AM on June 6


I'd stumbled on that Thrillist article and put it on my queue, and it's landed on HBO Max. It was good and odd.
posted by Pronoiac at 1:35 PM on July 18


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