I will be honest, the main reason that I watched this film, a film that was released originally in October of 2020 and just now released on streaming in January was that it came from Boom! Studios. Boom! is a company that also puts out comic books and is the company that is responsible for one of my favorite, if not my favorite, comic of the last few years, Something is Killing the Children. I discovered that The Empty Man is another horror based graphic novel that was released by Boom! Despite its low reaction on Rotten Tomatoes, I was now intrigued.
What I got was a bizarre, overly-long, supernatural horror film that had some truly big ideas and an ending that I am not sure about how I feel.
The Empty Man started with four friends climbing in the mountains. One of them, Paul (Aaron Poole) heard a whispering and wound up falling into a crevice. When he friends found him, they discovered that Paul had slipped into a comatose state despite not having any apparent injury. The fearsome skeleton that also was in this crevice should have given them a clue.
Then, the next day, Paul found himself, somehow, on the edge of one of the cliffs, blowing into a pipe of some kind. Then, unexpectedly, his three friends kill each other and they fall off the cliff. I have to say that I was not expecting that and I immediately was not sure what this movie was going to be about. Then the title came up and I could not believe that this was just the cold open. It had been a significant amount of time, but we had not yet gotten into the meat of the story.
We then meet James Lasombra (James Badge Dale), a former policeman who had left his job to grieve the death of his wife and son, who had died in a car crash. A friend of his, Nora (Marin Ireland), called him when her daughter Amanda (Sasha Frolova) had disappeared. An ominous message saying that “The Empty Man made me do it” was written in blood on her bathroom mirror.
The police were little help, so James decided to do some of his own investigating, connecting this to a doomsday cult in which he was afraid that Amanda had fallen into.
The movie is very atmospheric and darkly imagined. The imagery of the movie certainly played like the scenes of a dark, horror graphic novel. It was disturbing and, at times, frightening. The mystery of what was going on during this whole time was difficult to follow but does have a distinct wrap up.
The performances were fine, but I would not say that anything was a true standout. The short appearance of Steven Root as the cult leader was appropriately creepy, but the rest of the film lacked any true standouts.
There is no doubt that the movie is just too long and could have stood to be shorted by a good 30 minutes or so. At 2 hours and almost 20 minutes, The Empty Man can be a slog at times to get through. There are some really good moments here, but it gets bogged down. The lengthy run time needed more character development to truly be necessary.
It does not end in a feel good manner, so if you are expecting that, you will be disappointed. That is never a deal breaker for me, but I have to admit that I wanted some optimism in the conclusion somewhere.
It was not an unpleasant watch, but I am not sure that it is what I was hoping for. Though stylistic, I think I wanted more substance in the middle, especially for the length that it was.