The Empty Man
To find movies to watch I usually go to Reddit or Google and type in "scariest movies list" or something similar and see what everyone recommends. I sometimes find really good ones and I've also come across some duds. Then there's others that I can't quite put my finger on, like...
The Empty Man (2020)
The 356th review
Well... uhh... yeah... this movie. The first 20 minutes of The Empty Man is straight up awesome cosmic horror. It's everything you want in a horror movie. Four friends go hiking in Bhutan and we're treated to some really stunning scenery. The mountains are gorgeous! Anyways, one of them in the group notices some nasty weather and suggests they all head back. But before they turn around, one of them, Paul, falls down a crevice. Greg climbs down to retrieve him and finds him sitting cross-legged in front of some inhuman skeleton. It's a really disturbing visual.
Greg goes to try and snap Paul out of it but Paul warns him in a scared whisper, "If you touch me, you'll die."
Greg eventually decides he's had enough and grabs onto Paul's shoulder. Paul immediately starts crying and has to be dragged away. I don't want to do a whole beat-by-beat because this is the best part of the movie and it's great, like seriously awesome stuff! There's a really scary scene, plenty of creepyness and a wonderful "Holy shit" moment right before the title card flashes on the screen 22 minutes later. Once you're given a second to breathe you think Holy crap, this movie is going to be amazing! I'm so excited to see where this goes!
Well, after that, the movie slams on the brakes so hard it leaves skid marks on the pavement. The second act is where the movie gets weird. A former cop is looking for her neighbor's daughter after she went missing. Coming across one of her friends he finds out she called "The Empty Man." I'm gonna skip how to summon him because if I tried to explain this movie the review would be 45 pages long. He's almost exactly like the "Bye Bye Man." You summon him, he follows you and then he eventually kills you.
From there the movie turns into a mystery with enough typical supernatural scares to keep you interested. It's just a weird film and changes what it wants to be so often it'll make your head spin, but it's too interesting to turn off. Eventually his investigation leads him to a cult disguised as hippy self-help silliness. Then, hey it's Stephen Root! I love that guy. He plays like an evil Tony Robbins but the conversation he has and how he explains "The Empty Man" is great and very thought provoking. I can see how a group like this could garner followers despite it being obviously evil.
His investigation eventually leads him to a camp and there's such a wonderfully chilling scene when he comes across the cultists marching around a campfire. Eventually they become aware of his presence and it calls back to an awesome moment in the beginning. And his reaction of, "Yeah, no." Is the perfect reaction before he turns around and runs. It's so good and comes close to matching the tone of the beginning. While the beginning is the scariest stretch, this scene rivals the awesome opening.
That's the thing about The Empty Man, it's so uneven. There are many flashes of brilliance but it inevitably just gets bogged down a few minutes later with the investigation. It's almost 2 hours and 20 minutes long and you really start to feel it once he starts looking into the disappearances.
The cult itself is cool too because on the surface it looks modern and bright and happy. But the deeper you go, literally, he goes down a lot of steps and passageways, and the farther he goes the darker and more sinister it gets.
Then we get to the end and that's when things REALLY get weird. Before this it seemed like a rip off of Bye Bye Man but then it makes a left turn and goes insane. I don't know how to describe it without giving it away or making you more confused. It's actually kind of cool and not at all what I expected. It's interesting but it's impossible to tell what's real and what's a lie because at the end we're dealing with two unreliable narrators. But the more you think about it, there's no way it should be like that, but there's also no way it couldn't be that way. It's weird is what I'm trying to say.
The acting is good and the lead is likeable. He's your typical down on his luck, bulldog cop that will keep digging no matter where it takes him. The story is intriguing and the beginning is all kinds of wonderful. But man, it is a slog to get through and I don't think the ending really holds up to much scrutiny. I'm not upset I watched it but I don't think I'll ever revisit it again, unless I want to check out the first 22 minutes. I do appreciate that the director took a risk and made something this crazy. Directors should be applauded for swinging for the fences even if the attempt doesn't land with everyone.