The Empty Man

The Empty Man ★★★½

The way a general unease echoes and builds through almost every onscreen space here whether occupied by more than one human or not is much stronger on a second go-round. What ensues after the title card is essentially just a brooding teen's seemingly innocuous urban legend fetish gone infectious; something that rapidly evolves into a vicious, nigh-impenetrable mystery getting more so over time to the point of waking nightmarish insanity for its initial victims and James. From a ghoulish receptionist he first glimpses upon entering the cult HQ to Root's perfectly delivered and overbearing crypticism, it's only the tip of the iceberg for this kinda bumbling schmuck as he gets increasingly over his head until everything is all but well and truly doomed. A surreal atrocity punctuated by a handful of more visceral/violent action as it weaponizes its atmosphere to varying degrees of success on account of narrative obtuseness, but this is Prior and Co. just swinging out of their shoes to produce something rather admirable.

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