Title – The Empty Man (2020)
Director – David Prior (feature debut)
Cast – James Badge Dale, Marin Ireland, Stephen Root, Sasha Frolova
Plot – Ex-cop James Lasombra (Dale) gets involved in the case of his neighbour and missing teenager Amanda Quail (Frolova), an investigation that will take him down a dark and mysterious path as he comes across shady organisation, The Pontifex Institute.
“You’re just not listening”
Review by Eddie on 07/05/2021
Filmed all the way back in 2017 and unceremoniously dumped into cinemas late in 2020 in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic by its new studio Disney (released under the now defunct 20th Century Fox brand), initial critical and commercial failure The Empty Man has started to build itself a readily growing reputation as a new cult-film in waiting as David Prior’s horror/thriller hybrid refuses to be easily pinned down into a quantifiable genre or experience.
Adapted from the little known graphic novel of the same name, Empty sees debut feature director Prior take his leading man James Badge Dale on a strange journey as his ex-cop turned security firm owner James Lasombra gets caught up in a mysterious case involving his missing teenage neighbour Amanda who appears to be caught up with a shady organisation that is not the type of place you’d like to wondering into on a rainy day.
Where an extended prologue in Bhutan, a collection of creepy VHS recordings, a grisly multiple suicide and a hamming it right up Stephen Root come into play is best left to be discovered by unsuspecting audiences with Empty constantly moving in various directions across its epic two hour plus runtime, creating an experience that is unlike anything you’re likely to recall seeing and a large reason why this at first instance misunderstand oddity is likely to live out a long and prosperous life in the cult circuit.
Garnering terrible test screening results and scaring its studio into abandoning it’s release support, it’s not hard too see why a film of this unique nature didn’t quite stand a chance out there in the public realm, only a handful of critics sung its praises late last year and audiences weren’t shouting its virtues from the rooftops but the films flaws (of which there are many) and strange/half explained moments are part of what make this experience so memorable and far more long lasting in nature than many other similar hybrids.
Throughout this almost impossible to explain journey is a committed James Badge Dale performance, one that allows the one time Jurassic Park visitor a rare chance to play leading man and when combined with Prior’s often energetic and inventive directing choices, Empty does feel like more than just another B-movie with a few cult fans and while its legacy is still unpredictable this early on, its likely this film will be spoken about and analysed for a significant period of cinematic life.
Final Say –
A flaw-filled, bonkers and utterly unique experience that deserves its detractors and supporters in equal measure, The Empty Man is an odd beast that stands out from the crowd and while it is by no means a masterpiece, there’s a lot here to like and an abundance of elements for audiences to investigate further as its cult reputation grows now and well into the future.
3 teddy bears out of 5