connor’s review published on Letterboxd:
a pure & open contradiction of a picture: initially, it appears that the narrative and thematic threads laid out in the first hour or so have surely (& somewhat disappointingly) diverged by the time the second hour is over, but upon a second viewing it’s clear that they’ve been in sync all along as everything collapses into nothingness; Prior’s visual form & control over the story is subtly chimeric if nothing else—often assuming details and images culled from horror cinema’s past—to such an extent that it may understandably be read as somewhat incompetent, which perhaps it is! nonetheless, with a work like this, the fact that it’s impossible to tell (and doesn’t matter anyway) is of course part of the appeal because it lodges the film in a space of unbounded potentiality. what’s curious, then, is that this neither looks nor moves like the vast majority of other destabilized horror films; where films like I Know Who Killed Me or Twixt consistently upend their own logics thru employing increasingly impressionistic, anti-realist images, The Empty Man upends itself on primarily structural & ontological terms while maintaining a rather coherent “prestige TV” aesthetic, for lack of a better term. (the closest point of comparison that comes to mind is what Fincher et al. are up to in Mindhunter, oddly enough.) which is to say, it’s strange to see something that looks so clean, so meticulously composed serve a narrative this knotty and erratic. but that’s also why this thing fascinates in the first place. i’m not sure this will “work” for most people at all, but i’m very damn glad to be in the camp of those for whom it does.
• legit can’t believe how good James Badge Dale is in this!!
• Christopher Young’s score is ppp good
• can’t get over “Jacques Derrida High School,” something that would register as unbelievably goofy and stupid in another film but here is goofy and weird in a way that i for whatever reason rly enjoy!
• needs to be said that even though this somewhat telegraphs its twist throughout, the twist isn’t a good one or at all interesting imo, but on the other hand it does let this be even wilder i guess
• some truly spooky moments in here even tho the titular thing is silly looking (& yet the editing surrounding it sort of undercuts that silliness yet again)
• can’t believe this has a 22 minute prologue!
• i wish this were more engaging emotionally, because there’s definitely a few things going for it in that department, but i’m also plenty ok with appreciating this more as a coolly bizarre & inscrutable object with some very interesting, admittedly half-baked ideas