The Empty Man Is Scary Because of Humans, Not Monsters

“We cannot accuse the cosmos.”

This line a The Empty Mandelivered by Detective Villers (Ron Canada), addresses the hopelessness that pervades this entire function. Horror films are no strangers to dark atmospheres and many modern terrifying films are wall to wall darkness save for perhaps a happy ending. But titles like The incantation or The black phone confined the creepiness of the world to one person or place where supernatural beings thrive. The Empty Man is a downright nihilistic exercise because his fears can come from anywhere. Inside David Prior‘s feature-length directorial work has desperation and terror around every corner, thanks to mankind’s terrifying impulses and not just the malevolent behavior of his titular creature.


What is “The Empty Man” about?

Loosely adapted from a series of Boom! Studios Comics of the same name by Cullen Bunn and Vanesa R Del Rey, The Empty Man follows former police officer James Lasombra (James Badge Dale), whose whole life is overshadowed by the tragic death of his wife and son in a car accident. When his neighbor’s daughter Amanda (Sasha Frolova) disappears, Lasombra takes it upon himself to find out where she went and what an entity called The Empty Man has to do with her disappearance. However, before we even get to that main story arc, The Empty Man makes its somber tone clear through a lengthy prologue involving wanderers who are doomed once any member of the group becomes possessed by The Empty Man.

RELATED: ‘The Empty Man’ Explains: Let’s Discuss the Many Mysteries of David Prior’s Cosmic Horror

In The Empty Man, evil is everywhere

Start your feature-length movie with a standalone device Twilight Zone Episode is already a stormy move enough to earn the respect of the audience. But the fact that Prior’s script begins on a very different continent to the rest of the film immediately shows just how pervasive evil is in both The Empty Man and humans. The moment Paul (Aaron Poole) becomes the tool of greater supernatural forces, his three friends begin to crumble under the pressure. In this time of crisis, no heroes emerge, only people turning against each other, and one member of the group even berates Paul for always being self-centered in life. Conflicts were constantly brewing within this social group, a signal of the darkness that lies in people’s souls.

This prologue also establishes a detail that emphasizes The empty man’s dark tone as something unique in the horror cinema pantheon: the randomness of its brutality. Questions Jamie Kennedy out Scream and he will tell you that there are “rules” about who lives and dies in traditional horror films. The Empty Man, like so many other horror films, throws away those reels, but here it’s to suggest that no one is safe from the cruelty of mankind. It doesn’t matter if you’re a virgin, a saint, a criminal, or anything else, everyone is susceptible to The Empty Man’s whims as well as the horrors people can enact. This prologue and its pile of corpses make that clear. Killer or victim, no one is safe.

From there, The Empty Man shifts its focus to Lasombra, who is as downcast as the film’s tone. As Amanda’s mother, Nora (Marine Ireland), asks Lasombra if the cops will do anything to find her daughter, he sullenly replies, “Probably not.” This guy has been in the law enforcement world for years. He knows their double standards, their priorities and everything else. He knows they can’t go to the police for help. Institutions that are conceptually designed to help people are just further evidence of the moral decay in the world of The Empty Man. Here everyone is on their own.

“The Empty Man” conjures up real cults

Given this truism, it’s perhaps no wonder that characters in this world have begun to turn to the Pontifex Institute, a cult that preaches the wisdom that, among other core ideas, reality itself is extremely flexible, and as a by-product of the Morality doesn’t exist. All of these ideas involve the entity known as The Empty Man, but they send chills down the spine because they conjure up real-life cults. In particular, they recall how much exploitation is contained within these organizations at all levels. Head of the Pontifex Institute Arthur Parsons (Stefan Root) Channels Jim Jones and countless other people throughout history who preached compassion but normalized slaughter. Willing to do anything in the name of the Void Man, members of this cult summon similarly terrifyingly unforgettable real-world figures.

Prior reminds us that boogeymen reside in everyday people

The empty man’s Gloomy atmosphere doesn’t scare you because everything is gray and gloomy in color. Prior’s screenplay cleverly channels reality, reminding viewers what kind of bogeyman lurks in ordinary people. Who needs a killer in a hockey mask when there are people out there willing to murder others in the name of their cult? Detective Villers himself talks about this in a long monologue after Davara (Samantha Logan) kills himself in a particularly brutal way. His dialogue references other recent murders and acts of violence related to The Empty Man. All this carnage, coming from the most unexpected people, is just too much for Villers to comprehend.

His confusion about the state of the world and how messy violence seems to be everywhere is very understandable. Anyone who has fallen down a rabbit hole from breaking news articles about global atrocities, or even just Wikipedia pages about various horrifying events from history, will know that the depravity of mankind can often be overwhelming. The empty man’s This somber image of humanity is underscored by a memorable scene in which Lasombra kidnaps a member of the Pontifex Institute on a sidewalk in broad daylight. You’d think it would be impossible for him to smuggle this guy into his car at this time of day, but the camera lingers on any potential witnesses nearby who are too busy on their phones to notice the kidnapping. At this moment, The Empty Man not only shows the desolation of the world with murderers, but also a larger, indifferent society.

The ubiquity of this behavior is beautifully underlined by the prior and cameraman Anastas Michos Choose several brutal key sequences in the daylight. Lasombra discovers the bodies of several teenagers hanging from a noose in the dark underbelly of a bridge, but he uncovers this brutal scene in the middle of a bright, sunny day. It doesn’t have to be the dead of night for the horrifying carnage of this film to unleash itself. Lasombra’s abduction also takes place in sunshine, with the last ten minutes taking place almost entirely in a normally lit, seemingly conventional hospital. While the story also makes use of nightly fiery rituals and a run-down shack for spooky set pieces, many of the environments are in The Empty Man quietly suggest that humanity’s worst impulses are found anywhere, anytime.

The revelation of Empty Man speaks to just how terrifying the people in this story are

Even the eventual reveal of the title, Empty Man, speaks to how much more terrifying we are meant to find the characters in this story. Both the viewer and Lasombra only see The Empty Man clearly once, in a pivotal scene in Act III, in which this entity attacks the ex-cop. Even then, the viewer only gets to see fragments of The Empty Man through flickering flashes of light and quick cuts. The bits and pieces we see are fascinatingly mismatched. This creature has the body of Slender Man, but also has sharp fangs, a lizard’s tail, and a cape. None of these design elements typically belong to the same type of horror movie monster, it’s as if The Empty Man is an intentional hodgepodge of a ton of different things that people might find scary.

This path lends a sense of ambiguity to the look of The Empty Man, even if it was technically on screen. It also reinforces our fear of the humans in this story as they were clearly on screen throughout the feature film as opposed to the being they worship. Prior’s decision to go in that direction in Act III may disappoint some viewers looking for a more conventional creature feature. However, it highlights both the bold creative tendencies of The Empty Man and also what creatures this story finds most chilling.

The Empty Man is a film of chaos. A story that begins with a best friend becoming the channel for a bloodthirsty supernatural being ends with a former cop shattering his entire reality. During its lifetime, this chaos is often fueled by the actions of humans. This unforgivingly somber atmosphere and view of the human race certainly lacks enough additional nuance to ensure that it shouldn’t be adopted as an actual worldview (though why anyone would seek out worldviews from R-rated horror films is beyond me). . But for those seeking a unique piece of harrowing horror cinema that isn’t afraid to confront just how overwhelmingly chaotic the everyday world can be, The Empty Man is the goosebumps film for you. The Empty Man Is Scary Because of Humans, Not Monsters

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