As an optimist that believes theatrical exhibition will survive, I look forward to the day when David Prior’s The Empty Man is introduced by a genre geek at an upcoming cult screening, perhaps Weird Wednesdays at the Alamo Drafthouse. The Empty Man is a curious creation, arriving as a B-movie compromise from Disney for beleaguered theaters while the studio ships its A-level movies like Pixar’s Soul to Disney+. This picture, with a 137-minute running time, was seemingly plucked from the limbo of the pre-Disney Fox vault, and although Disney has changed the name of the studio in February, they didn’t even spare the expense to swap out the 20th Century Fox logo and presenting credit on the DCP sent to theaters.
Putting aside the business of distribution and exhibition, as well as The Empty Man’s unique time and place in cinematic history, for much of the film’s running time it’s a meticulously-crafted feature film debut, adapted from Cullen Bunn’s graphic novel by Prior, whose credits include several behind the scenes/making of documentaries of David Fincher films. Clearly he has learned well by watching a master at work, directing an “elevated genre” picture that explores a rather silly idea and edges it towards that intersection of camp and art house with a few genuine thrills before completely derailing. It’s a bad sign in a horror film when it has to continue to explain itself and the story’s connection to its very long and evocative prologue.
See thefilmstage.com for full review