Even with such a limited supply of new movies in theaters as we had this past year due to the ‘Rona, I found it impossible to get out to see all the movies I wanted to see before they disappeared from theaters. Part of this can be blamed on the theaters themselves, who chose to, rather than sticking with new, albeit lesser-known independent productions, just show TALLADEGA NIGHTS again. (Genius move, huh?) Anyway, a couple of those films I missed were SPELL—which I saw this week and reviewed right here on this site (also this week)—and THE EMPTY MAN. Both received mixed reviews at the time of their releases, but I prefer to make up my own mind. My appraisal of SPELL was in keeping with the critical consensus—relatively lukewarm. And how did I feel about THE EMPTY MAN? I liked it more than a lot of reviewers seemed to—but not as much as I would have liked to.
When you serve up a narrative that doesn’t readily make sense, isn’t immediately followable, and you have characters that spent the better portion of their dialogue spouting gibberish, you’d better have a deft hand at the controls, else rather than enthralling your story can become tedious, even annoying. (There’s only one David Lynch, after all.) THE EMPTY MAN never completely falls into this trap, but it gets uncomfortably close at times. So what’s it about? There’s this Lovecraftian presence, and it needs a human being, the “Empty Man”, to serve as its “antenna” so it can project its thoughts into the physical world. And there’s this cult that “tunes in” to the broadcast. But then there’s this whole urban legend spin on it where stupid teenagers playing stupid teenager games can summon the entity and it gets in their minds and makes them kill themselves. That’s the gist of it. Oh, and there’s a twist ending, one that I figured out fairly early on. Atmospheric and entertaining enough, but not stylized enough to make it really stand out, I’d give this one a B-. Not empty, for sure, but not altogether satisfying, either.