The Empty Man

The Empty Man ★★★★★

Phenomenal phenomenological horror. Metaconciousness is transposed here as something both deeply malevolent and elysian, purported as some sort of bicameral bliss of terror, worthy of worship, and yet devastated by selfhood and experience. If we consider America our own private tulpa, then I suppose Missouri is precisely dead center mass where the beating heart of the country would lie — beating, though? More like a decayed, black pearl defunct and still. So, it makes sense that we set our sights on Missouri here, just the perfect locale in which this story unfolds. (That’s, of course, failing to mention the incredibly effective extended opening sequence set in the Himalayan mountainside of Bhutan, where cavernous black holes and daemonic skeletal remains incite a narrative based in numinous awe.) As one of the detectives in this story mentions, you can’t indict the cosmos — likewise, you can’t indict logos, order, rationality, nor its opposite, deep dark chaos. Is chaos simply a part of the order? Is it the other way around? Do the cosmos reflect, or simply unfold and enmesh? Does the self? And why am I thinking about these things after watching a movie that was clearly just dumped by the studio with a title, poster, and synopsis that makes you think you’re about to embark upon another one of those cheap urban legend horror ripoffs (see: The Bye Bye Man)? It’s clearly playing into that realm, the mid-2000s noir-based investigative horror dive into folklore, like The Ring or Mothman Prophecies, yet The Empty Man feels intensely more personal and philosophical. Metaphysics and reality itself are both manifested in this as, simply, apocalypse, where the lurking beast of divine masochism, melancholy, hysteria, and grief are revealed as symptomatic of an empty man — of course, a double meaning. So, who exactly is the empty man? Try the husk that is grown from a persistent existence steeped in half-truths and ideologies, where imagination and self are left to idle. That’ll give you an entire country full of empty men.

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