By Laurie Coker

Rating: D+

Empty and idiotic about sums up the “horror/thriller” The Empty Man. Running an interminable two hours and seventeen minutes, writer/director David Prior’s vision never takes flight. Prior adapts his script from the popular graphic novel of the same name, but far too much goes unexplained and underplayed to garner attention or care.  From start to finish, The Empty Man bores without shame.

The story’s protagonist, whom we meet after an explicably unnecessary opening sequence involving four doomed hikers, is James Lasombra, play by James Badge Dale, who makes EVERY effort to make the film engaging. The first scenes seem like hours before the title card appears and then we are pushed forward into James’ uninteresting life. The original foursome manages to open some portal to evil and years later, James’ is tagged to combat it. When his (girl) friend’s daughter goes missing and several teens are found hanged under a bridge, James a former police detective, sets out alone to find answers. His investigation leads him to a cult of sorts and a dark force that seems to want payback for James’ past discretions.

At any given time, The Empty Man fluctuates between psychological thriller – the term used lightly here, cop mystery and slasher film and it does none of them well or engagingly. There is some redemption in its cinematography, but the best scenes still lack suspense or scare factors. Only a handful of moments warrant even the slightest cringe, and most are exposed in the film’s trailer. Prior misses many opportunities to makes his film better and it’s a shame that he didn’t edit the film down to a manageable and engaging runtime.

Prior’s final act is convoluted and agonizingly mediocre. The studio tossed The Empty Man out with little fanfare or pre-exposure and deservedly so. It would be nice to have better movies to coax viewers back into theaters – safely and with social distancing – and Prior’s film is not worth a modicum of risk nor is it worth the ticket price. It earns a D+ in the grade book. My guest “liked” it, so I’ll be nice.

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