The Empty Man

The Empty Man ★★★★

On his supremely depressing birthday, ex-cop James Lasombra (James Badge Dale) gets a cryptic visit from Amanda (Sasha Frolova), the daughter of family friend Nora (Marin Ireland). Amanda sounds an awful lot like she's in a cult, and the following day she disappears. The police aren't terribly interested in trying to help, so James starts his own investigation to help ease Nora's panic. He learns that Amanda and her friends had taken part in an urban legend ritual to summon "The Empty Man," and then discovers a series of similar eerie incidents attributed to the same entity. James's search to find out who or what exactly The Empty Man is takes him on a strange, winding path that ends somewhere he could have never imagined.

The Empty Man is a wildly ambitious horror film, opening with a lengthy prologue before shifting gears into something that at first superficially resembles recent goofy teen urban legend movies like Slender Man or Blumhouse's Truth or Dare before morphing into a gripping detective procedural with a supernatural bent. (Jacob Knight described it perfectly: "Imagine David Fincher adapting a cheapie TOR Horror paperback from the ‘80s and you’re not too far off.") The cast is excellent, and despite its lengthy running time director David Prior keeps the action moving at such a deceptively brisk clip that I was genuinely shocked when the end credits started rolling. It also looks amazing, with beautiful cinematography by Anastas N. Michos, and the supremely unsettling score by Christopher Young and Lustmord perfectly complements the increasingly surreal action of the movie.

It's a cinematic travesty for the ages that this one was the victim of a studio dumping mid-pandemic. I really hope director/co-writer David Prior is able to get another chance at the helm before too long. If there's any justice in the universe, this film will find a passionate audience before too long.

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