I’ll start this off by saying that I’ve never read the Boom! Studios graphic novels by Cullen Bunn and Vanesa R. Del Rey that this movie was adapted from. Having seen this movie, I might need to change that…but I went into the movie blind. I’d seen a couple of trailers, but those serve as minimal preparation for what this actually is.
It took me a short while to build up the motivation to sit down and watch this one, in large part due to the more than two-hour runtime. It isn’t always easy to find that much free time to dedicate solely to watching a movie. I wish I’d found the time to do so much sooner. The trailers I’d seen led me to expect something potentially unoriginal. I suspected I’d be in for an amalgam of the movies The Bye Bye Man and Wes Craven’s (in my opinion, underrated) My Soul To Take. This was not at all the case.
What we have with The Empty Man is a highly original horror film that succeeds in providing an exploration of the nature of reality, memory, and cults within a deeply unsettling, atmospheric narrative. This is one of those stories that will stick with you long after the final credits begin rolling. It’s challenging to discuss anything about this movie without giving away elements that are best left a surprise for those coming into the experience fresh, as I did.
The movie begins with a group of four hikers ascending the Himalayan mountains of Bhutan in 1995. With a storm approaching, they seek shelter but discover something terrible instead. After this lengthy introduction to the supernatural/extradimensional nightmare seeking to bridge its way to our world, we experience a time jump to the modern-day, where a traumatized former cop finds himself investigating the apparent disappearance of a teenage girl. The mystery revolving around that disappearance leads him down a path of confusion, occult intrigue, and death. The exploration of a sinister cult intrinsically connected to the events at the beginning of the story calls into question the very nature of the reality we perceive and the reliability of memory.
To say that this was a heavy piece of fiction is to offer up a bit of an understatement. There’s so much densely packed into this movie that it’s probably worth watching two or three times.