The Empty Man

The Empty Man ★★★½

Director David Prior has spent the majority of his career making special features for movies by directors like David Fincher. Another review can probably be written on Fincher's influence on this film. I am not quite knowledgeable enough to discuss that. For whatever reason, Prior decided to direct an adaptation of a rather obscure Cullen Bunn graphic novel. The movie sat around for a bit, was acquired by Disney, and quietly dumped in theaters in the middle of a global pandemic. It released to a level of critical and commercial failure impressive even for this strange time. As I sat in the giant empty theater, I expected the worst. What I got was genuinely unexpected.

"The Empty Man" has a lot of flaws but they are often misses from big swings. The first twenty or so minutes of this 130-plus minute film is set in Bhutan and follows a group of hikers who encounter the titular monster. Think the prologue of "Friday the 13th". After this section (which is enjoyable but a bit cheesy) and the title, you may think you are in for some kind of belated 2000s horror movie. After that, we launch into what seems to be some weird mix of a "Bye Bye Man" type "monster from legend kills high schoolers" and horror police procedural. Yes, all of these things are present in this film. There are also death cults, the said high schoolers go to fucking Jacques Derrida High for some reason, discussion of linguistics, and comatose psychics with an ending right out of Ari Aster's "Hereditary" (filmed before Hereditary released). If there is one movie this year that seems destined to become a cult classic, it is "The Empty Man". A deliriously overstuffed horror epic that is so hellbent on being a mess it becomes a winner.

"Cinema plus Psychoanalysis equals the Science of Ghosts" (Jacques Derrida)

72/100. Watched at Phoenix Chartiers Valley (12:20pm; $??).

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