Bazaar in October 2020 in several American open-air theaters, The Empty Man was clearly victimized by Disney, who didn’t know what to do with the monstrous free electrons it inherited from its takeover of 20th Century Fox. Now available in France via the Disney+ Stars section, David Prior’s feature film still deserves our attention with (lots of) attention…
YOU ARE SO URBAN, A LEGEND
Cinema by definition is a contract of trust signed with the public, and so introduction becomes an entryway that is increasingly governed by efficiency, especially at a time when viewers can change movies on Netflix. Yet The Empty Man’s first conceptual deviation lies in its prologue, completely at odds with the tacit rules of an industry that’s stuck in its own way.
In no less than twenty-two minutes, David Prior is having fun making an autonomous short film, propelling us into the heart of Bhutan. A group of ecstatic mountaineers will discover the restless skeleton of the gigerian, and of course will, slowly, descend into the inescapable hell.
With this radical and refreshing proposal, David Prior spreads a note of intent for flamboyant technical mastery. It has to be said that if the guy signed his first feature film here, he cut his teeth as a director, and studied alongside big names like Peter Weir or David Fincher. Of course, The Empty Man’s introduction won’t appeal to everyone, as its space management and superb editing serve to sublimate the throbbing rhythm, that one would swear from the horror stories told around these bends, fire in an undisturbed voice. .
This connection with dangerous fear makes sense, moreover, with the symbol at the heart of The Empty Man: the bridge. While he could uncover another boogeyman story inspired by fashionable creepypasta, David Prior draws substantive marrow from the graphic novels by Cullen Bunn and Vanesa R. Del Rey. He built his entire system around the idea of transmission, the relationship between beings and the concepts they carry within them.
If the function of urban legends seems more or less convoluted, the Empty Man can only exist if we think about it. A great idea that prompted the production to translate its mythology as a study of memetics, centered on our darkest images, and the way they interfere with our collective subconscious. With a brilliance that has become all too rare in this genre, Prior visually transcends this logic, particularly with its invasive, monstrous representation, where a simple step back creates rhythm, even dance, to gruesome pursuits.
It’s no coincidence that The Empty Man imposes its rhythm on audiences in the same way. Here again, the director strays from the established rules of Hollywood studios and extends, for an essential 2 hours 15, a pleasant atmosphere. Without atmosphere, the author gradually invokes a haunting and oppressive cosmic horror, taking into account Lovecraftian inspiration but so difficult to transfer to the screen.
If David Prior trades the fear of jumping for unstoppable frame work, the film also has the advantage of distinguishing the whimsical nature of its adventures with the apparent simplicity of its starting point. Throwing a traumatized ex-cop (James Badge Dale, flawless) into the arena and overwhelmed by events, The Empty Man sets his sights on a grisly investigation, and in earnest branches off into a paranoid cult-based thriller, to our greatest delight.
To be honest, the elusive dimension of feature films undoubtedly lies in the heterogeneity of the approach. Drawing alternately on Silent Hill, Alien or even Japanese horror (we’ll especially remember its daily countdown, it’s as scary as Ring), The Empty Man can only delight moviegoers with its encyclopedic knowledge of the genre, as well as that whole fishery sometimes by a passionate zeal. excessive. His generosity and humility might endear him to him, but there’s no denying that the film spreads along the way, even leading to a rather awkward ending.
But on the other hand, this trait helps David Prior’s proposal to achieve the status of a cursed, even sick, job. Burdened by stormy post-production, The Empty Man rests on a sometimes fragile foundation, which almost adds to the uncompromising UFO character, above all that its formalism brings. It would also be criminal not to return to the film’s true binder, namely its insane work on sound. Among Christopher Young’s immersive music (supported by musician Lustmord, which specializes in highly punctual electro-damaging) and some well-found biases, David Prior and his team intrude on our privacy, including through whispers, which will terrorize fire-resistant ASMR.
To be fair, it’s possible that the romantic production of The Empty Man will make us love him more than we should. At the same time, it’s hard to really blame her way out of the way, as they contribute to her kinky strength. Even when the passionate fanbase (which we’re happy to join) begins to rehabilitate this beautiful cursed object, it’s always a pleasure to find a piece destined to become a cult nugget.