In January 2017, one of the worst films I’ve ever reviewed called ‘The Bye Bye Man’ was released. A spectacular disaster in filmmaking made it memorable on the sole basis of how terrible it was. A demonic entity finds and kills any person who says his name, hell even if you just listen to someone say his name, he will still kill you. A film so dumb deserves to get buried in the cinematic graveyard.
With 20th Century Fox coming out with a new horror film called “The Empty Man” with a similar concept, the PTSD of bad horror movies settles in like a war veteran waiting for his popcorn to finish. Fourtnely, The Empty Man is a superior film in every possible way, but that doesn’t make it ‘great’.
The Empty Man is a film about a group of small-town teens who invoke the urban legend of the Empty Man. If you repeat the name of the legend on a bridge, in 3 days he will appear for you. So when several teens go missing and begin to die in horrific suicides, it is up to a retired cop (James Badge Dale) to investigate but in his infestation, he discovers a secretive cult that may be directly responsible for conjuring up the mystical entity putting the entire town in danger.
Empty Man is a classic tale of solid set up but poor finish in a film. Despite the introduction of a pseudo boogeyman character, the cult angle created an interesting conflict that keeps the audience wondering if what they are seeing is paranormal, psychological, or a combination of the two. What you end up getting is a series of red herrings and a cinematic ending which is the equivalent of a false finish. A bus ride can be enjoyable for 2 hours but if it crashes into a ditch in the last 20 minutes, no one is going to walk away remembering the scenery.
The Empty Man flirts with being a solid B film, there are some editing issues such as sound and cutting down on its runtime which would have improved the film’s quality. A film that doesn’t lack ambition simply doesn’t live up to its potential.