The Empty Man – R – 2 hr 17 min
NO SPOILERS Movie Review
Watched in theater Friday October 23, 2020
AMC Kent Station 14 – Kent, Washington
#39 new movie seen in theater in 2020
Four young adults are hiking in the mountains and cross a bridge that we expect to collapse, sending them to their deaths, but that’s just a set piece for the moment. Instead, one walks away from the group and falls down a chamber inside the rocks.
His friend rappels down and finds him sitting cross legged and trance-like staring at this spooky-looking human-creature skeleton, telling his friend “touch me and you’ll die.”
Being a horror movie, of course he’s going to ignore this warning, helping him out of the cave and trying to carry down the mountain, only to get tired. With weather worsening, they stay in a lodge near the bridge. Inside there, they try to figure out what’s wrong with their friend.
That’s just the beginning and it is kind of intriguing but turns out this is just a prologue to the real story which is a retired police officer turned private eye investigating the disappearance of a young woman. There’s another bridge scene and viewers are treated to a cult-like fascination with bridges, death and a mythical creature known as The Empty Man.
Oddly, The Empty Man likes to pattern his ghostly behavior on Charles Manson’s penchant for leaving messages at crime scenes. Only they aren’t witchy, they are more obvious like, “The Empty Man was here!”
This movie suffers — badly — from way too much lore, exposition and backstory. While it’s based on a graphic novel — and no, I haven’t read it — this isn’t exactly Lord of the Rings. It also is a victim of excess runtime. The story isn’t as complex as it wants to be, and yet it’s approaching 2.5 hours?!? That’s too long for, once stripped down, a pretty basic horror story.
We never get to know any characters that well except for the detective and even his characterization is thin. Instead, we’re focused on who or what is The Empty Man. At some point viewer fatigue sets in with too much mystery without action. It doesn’t have to be a nonstop killathon, but we need plot twists, turns, something, besides, hey, that’s kind of weird behavior.
The biggest problem here is that it simply isn’t scary. It’s loud and has some very cliched jumpscares, but spooky lore and skeletons by themselves aren’t scary. Not that The Empty Man needed to go all Freddy Kruger or Jason Vorhees, but the shadowy figure doesn’t deliver enough of any personality to be scary. I guess that’s the point, it’s “empty” … but empty isn’t scary. Empty can be eerie, like go watch The Twilight Zone’s debut episode (see: TV SERIES Review: The Twilight Zone (1959) S1E1 – Where is Everybody?½ (#1 of 156)) but not even that level of awesomeness could hold a viewer beyond 30 minutes.
We were checking our clocks in the theater multiple times past the hourly mark, which had us contemplating leaving before it finished, but we pushed through and got to the end, which, unfortunately, didn’t redeem anything. The story is largely boring, not horrifying and neither of us could find much good to say, except that it wasn’t the worst horror movie we’ve seen in 2020.
Just leaving the theater, we discussed the horror of how bad it was versus it being horrifying. It’s a sad statement when Kara who generally dislikes horror films liked this more than me who loves all things horror. Loves good horror films, that is, which this one isn’t.
Rating (out of 5 stars): ½ (Todd) ⭐️ (Kara)