The Empty Man

The Empty Man

Real neat-o film, but let's start by talking bout that ending(spoilers, duh)...

...is it just straight up full of shit? I really liked this and kinda wanna give it the benefit of the doubt that it'd all click together if I went through it again, but as it stands right now I'm leaning towards yes, that twist is kinda dumb. Given what we ultimately find out, what exactly was the point of anything that happened throughout the film, the dead teens, the cult stringing him along in his investigation and then randomly chasing him that one time, how does that all add up to our final destination here? And this guy seemed to be regarded as if he really did have some sort of reputation (mainly by the police), so given that he ultimately doesn't actually exist does that mean basically every single person he interacts with in the town (including the entire police force?) is part of the cult, because while that isn't improbable/impossible or anything I guess what bugged me is how we're never really given a sense that that's supposed to be the case. Maybe it's stupid to get caught up in the logistics, but overall the style and tone just doesn't skew nearly surreal or delirious enough to justify tossing such concerns out the window, and either way they sure as hell are some murky logistics (I suppose this is where the slick and clean Fincher-esque style sort of betrays the story this is trying to be, though it still benefits it in many other major ways). Usually I'm on the other side of the fence with these sorts of things, but here, where everyone else is seeing horrific cosmic uncertainty I just see a filmmaker who didn't really think his own plot through.

All of that barely matters though when for the majority of its running time we've got an absolute top-tier hallway wanderer, just scene after scene of the most perfectly framed and lit and rhythmically assembled and distinctively but not distractingly scored spooky basement/forest/hospital/etc exploring. Portentous and kinda boring is my exact favourite flavour of horror, but I feel most modern filmmaker's trying for more ambitious artsy horror think that means ''excess melodrama and/or depressive subtext'' instead of ''lots of anticipation and very little actual action/payoff'', and this course corrects the modern ''it's actually about trauma!'' genre story magnificently from the former back to the latter. That's why I love the wannabe-Fincher style so much, it feels like 90% of filmmakers with these kind of slick and muscular chops have no interest in telling horror stories, or will only do so while kinda/sorta thumbing their noses at the genre, whereas on the opposite end (and I might get my horror card revoked for this, please understand there's a million exceptions and I'm just generalizing) the filmmaker's genuinely interested in telling the purest sort of horror stories I love the most on paper tend to either A) be hacks (Blumhouse/teenybopper type horror) or B) lack the resources to quite match their ambition (true indies, like last year's kinda shoddy but insanely memorable ''Carrion''). So this is the rare-ish post-2010s horror film that understands how its creepy cobwebs and creaky staircases are both a lot of fun AND a perfectly fine mean with which to tell a very serious and emotional story, without having to constantly signify ''it's okay you can take this seriously, see, it's actually a drama!''. The philosophy and spirituality here is a little muddled and half-assed, but the ambition is appreciated and helps keep the more generic elements at bay (the teenagers and their ''Ringu'' like curse). Overall, not quite the revelation I was hoping for (this mix of straightforward wandering through the dark type horror and more cosmic ambitions has goat potential written all over it for me), but it's still a huge step in the right direction for studio horror, lots more like this please and thank you! 

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