The Empty Man is an adaptation of the BOOM! Studios graphic novel from Cullen Bunn and Vanessa R. Del Rey. As such, it has a lot to live up to. Comic book movies are no longer disregarded as fluff while Bunn and Del Rey have made names for themselves in comic books. Of course, high expectations can end up doing more harm than good.
Director David Prior’s film is an interesting one. The movie was actually completed years ago but sat on the shelf after Disney purchased Fox. The Empty Man has seen little in the way of promotion and in all likelihood will go down as a curiosity of its time. What advertising there was for the movie made it seem like it just another in a long line of hokey horror titles.
This is a shame since the film is an interesting one that stands apart from similar horror fare. The Empty Man starts with a prologue involving four friends. After a series of terrifying events, things move forward to 2018 and the introduction of police officer turned security guard James Lasombra (James Badge Dale). It is a surprising change since it seems as if a story is being developed.
The Empty Man’s intro also shows just how different the movie is from what trailers depicted. Plenty of horror movies present a quick scene that gives audiences a taste of the danger to come. Here, it is a near half hour backstory that sets a different type of atmosphere. This is not going to be another movie about some creepy pasta.
The movie is a somber one that is more about setting a tone the giving jump scares. While The Empty Man does an excellent job of setting the mood, the story is constantly in danger of losing the audience. Sometimes, there just is not enough going on. Which is not to say there is no story. On the contrary, there is a lot to take in. The problem is things tend to get convoluted. This gives The Empty Man an underdeveloped feel at times.
The movie should be a dud, but it manages to work thanks to its sheer ambition. The Empty Man is willing to go in directions similar horror movies are -ironically – afraid to try. It is so willing to rely on developing its mystery that it practically changes genres mid film. This is also another reason some audiences may be turned off.
The Empty Man is a flawed adaptation that still manages to be entertaining. It is too long, very erratic, and more than a little confusing. It is also atmospheric, well directed, and has a great lead performance. It is unfortunate that marketing and even Disney itself have forgotten about this movie. It tries a little too much at times, but it is an overall fun movie.
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