The Empty Man – movie review

Empty man debuted in the world in 2020. In Poland, it has been available for some time on the newly launched Disney + platform. Its description, posted therein, is so laconic that it is difficult to predict what we will actually deal with here, so let me tell you at the beginning – when starting a session of this nearly two-and-a-half-hour production, get ready for jumps in time , supernatural threads and a row of question marks, which together make up a gloomy, in a sense folklore-transogenic and definitely niche story.

Main character The empty man there is a middle-aged man who lost his wife and son years ago in a tragic accident, for which he partially blames himself. It’s 2018 – James spends his life alone, his days fade into a solid gray, he has absolutely no motivation for anything. However, everything changes when a group of teenagers, in which his mistress’s daughter may be involved, disappear mysteriously in the vicinity. James becomes deeply committed to the cause, making it a target – yet he does not know that by plunging into the darkness, he himself exposes himself to the deadly threat of supernatural forces.

To make it more interesting, we don’t get to know the policeman and the whole topic of the disappearing youth until later – the film begins 23 years before the main events, namely in 1995, when during one of the walking trips a group of good friends fall victim to demonic forces slumbering in mountain crevices. The plot opening the production is very intriguing – the creators have made every effort to build this gloomy, cold atmosphere; all the props and the entire set go hand in hand, causing genuine terror. The highlight is a large skeleton in a dark cave, with shivers running down his spine. The film begins surprisingly well, so that you want to wade further into this story – it quickly brings to mind Midsummer. In broad daylight if Heritage. Hereditarywhere the main force holding the viewer to the screen is knowing that we don’t really know what the hell is going on here. The sequence with a group of friends lasts round three story days, through which it finds its beginning, development and ending – only after it we move smoothly to the already mentioned, proper storyline, in which we will accompany James (of course, at the end of the production it will turn out what really connects these two time planes, because, as you can easily guess, they were not juxtaposed by accident).

The story of adolescents embroiled in the cult (from the part that takes place in 2018) is closer to “typical” horror movies and moves away from the niche – yes, there are still amazing scenes at the sight of which it is difficult to take your eyes off the screen, but the atmosphere is nevertheless already completely different than in the opening part. Here, the hypnotism of the story gets a little bit more mundane, it becomes more down-to-earth, tangible – the presented world expands considerably, and many of the main and supporting characters create a kind of crowd in the plot, in opposition to the intimacy of the events of 1995. The whole layer of horror, initially very much well built up with static images and the music itself, in the second part it begins to be filled with quite predictable jump scares. Therefore, a certain split is created here, a dissonance – the fundamental part The empty man from 2018 is completely different from the sequence from 1995, which over the course of the screening may slightly disappoint expectations (as was the case in my case).

The main problem of the production is its duration – as I mentioned in the introduction, the film lasts almost two and a half hours, a significant part of which is devoted to the policeman’s loose dilemmas and his attempts to find himself in the existing reality. James has a disproportionate amount of time for himself, which is actually of no use to the plot. With each successive quarter of an hour, the emotions triggered by the opening begin to fade, and the film no longer offers the originality that we might initially expect. It is hard to resist the impression that the form begins to outgrow the content at some point – it is also not helped by the introduction of further plot complexities, which make the whole thing a bit overcomplicated. I have the impression that the creators tried to be inventive and surprising by force, ultimately offering viewers a complete ride without a handlebars – no matter that it’s forced, it’s important that things are unheard-of and completely inexplicable, turning the whole plot order inside out. And while it is sometimes desirable and welcome in the cinema, in this case it only intensifies the chaos, paradoxically even more detaching the two parts of the film from each other (despite the simultaneous attempt to fuse them into one whole). Over time, the production goes down a steep slope – from the great start it gets only average, and finally ends with a strange finale, quite tiring in reception, told at a crazy pace for which the viewer is not prepared.

Empty man could be a great and original horror film that would drill the mind of the viewer – in the end, however, it does not jump over the bar that he set for himself at the start. And although I am able to buy the ending and accept the idea that the creators have proposed, I cannot help but notice that this production is simply falling prey to the tangle on which this whole story was erected. The final accumulation of plot twists is no longer bearable, and when we expect conclusions, we get even more chaos, which gives the impression of a huge mess. There is nothing to hide, the screening is demanding and difficult – just look down for a moment and you can easily get lost in the message. It was going really well, and it probably would have been the case, if it hadn’t been for a few too many scenario volts. Technically, however Empty man is a very good cinema – a huge role in the reception is played by the low, hypnotizing sounds of the soundtrack, which perfectly match what is happening on the screen. I really like such productions and their strong influence on all the senses; the opening scenes are so dense that you can feel genuine fear. The acting itself is also flawless. To sum up – for the whole, the atmosphere at the opening and the title provoking reflection, rational for me 6/10.

Empty man