April 14, 2024

THE EMPTY MAN (2020) – Most original and best horror movie I have seen in years!


Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ 1/2

Evan Jonigkeit as Greg in 20th Century Studios’ THE EMPTY MAN. Photo by Ilze Kitshoff. © 2020 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

The Empty Man is one horror movie that just seem to have appeared out of nowhere. It was apparently first released in October last year even though it was filmed way back in 2017. The delay in release was apparently due to the film distributors’ lack of faith in the movie! It did not make any impact at the box office since it was during the pandemic and cinemas were largely not opened. Nor did it receive any glowing reviews at that time. The movie was brought to my attention recently when it resurfaced in the home rental market and this time, receiving some rave reviews. I have to admit I had never heard of it until now. But boy am I glad to have discovered this.

Right from the start, you know you are watching something that is out of the ordinary. The film has an extended prologue that lasts for over 20 minutes, which feels almost like a mini movie in itself, before the title of the film appears. This stunning and deeply unnerving opening has 4 mountain hikers in the icy mountains of Bhutan encounter something spooky in one of the caves they stumble upon. This prologue sets the base for the remaining part of the story that takes place many years later. This main portion of the movie focus on the mysterious disappearance of teenagers. An ex-detective, decides to investigate this one his own as it involved the daughter of a close friend. What and how he slowly uncovers the mystery provides the movie’s meat, ultimately leading to its mind f*** of a revelation.

The Empty Man works best when the less you know about the movie the better. It has strong performances from it largely unknown cast particular James Badge Dale who takes on the leading role of the ex-detective, and Aaron Poole who played Paul, the hiker at the start of the film. The movie plays more like a supernatural crime thriller but by the time you reach its conclusion, you will agree it is much more than that. The film works very well as it has the unpredictability element to its plot, good pacing (despite its length 2 hours 17 minutes runtime), and devoid of any reliance on cheap scare gimmicks like jump scares, and gratuitous violence. Much of the credit goes to David Prior who directed, wrote the screenplay and edited the movie beautifully. The images are very well framed and maximise impact without the need of special effects. And the use of sound is also well integrated to the scenes where the stress and suspense levels are elevated.

I have been waiting for a good horror movie like Empty Man to come along for such a long time. Being a horror movie fan, I had been mostly disappointed by the recent releases as they were mostly paint by numbers, uninspired films with no originality and weak storyline. Most are so unbelievable even when they claim that they are based on true events! Unlike these conventional offerings, The Empty Man is presented in a more real world circumstance and only goes overboard a little at the end. Horror movies for me, are most frightening when they depict things which seem like something that can happen in real life.

If you are a fan of the genre here, then, I highly recommend this as a watch. The Empty Man’s title and promo may imply this is yet another one of those urban legend mass slaughter horror, but it is far from being so contrived. Some people may not like its confusing ending but it is just another example of creator David Prior’s refusal to stick to the norm and expected.

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