It’s rare for a horror film to exceed an hour and a half runtime these days, and if it does it better be something unexpected, captivating and unique. David Prior’s The Empty Man is two and a half hours and not only stands as the best film I’ve seen so far this year but also the scariest horror to come my way since Hereditary and It Follows before that. It’s also one of the most ambitious, ‘out there’ films in terms of high concept in the same way that, for example, Gore Verbinski’s A Cure For Wellness was, another bonkers, reach for the sky horror gem that went well over the two hour mark. First off, ignore the title, trailer and any of the surprisingly scant marketing that might make this out to be another ‘Slender Man’, ‘Bye Bye Man’ or any other cheapie gimmick piece that caters to teens. This is not your garden variety, jump scare laden, watered down young adult fright flick, it’s dark, complex, philosophical, disquieting and altogether soul disturbing. Before the opening title even appears we are treated to an atmospheric, twenty minute opening act set somewhere in the Tibetan mountains sometime in the 90’s, where four ill fated hikers have an encounter with something… well, something so old there’s no name for it in any language we speak. Flash forward to Illinois 2018 where we follow ex cop turned private investigator James Lasombra (James Badge Dale) as he tries to find the missing daughter of a family friend who got mixed up in a spooky urban legend. That’s all I’m going to get into in terms of plot specifics because every viewer deserves to be led down this terrifying breadcrumb trail of a narrative with unspoiled eyes. Badge Dale is a great actor, one who somehow manages to simultaneously subvert and uphold the Hollywood tough guy image with his own charisma, his reactions and methods of finding information are really fascinating to watch from an acting standpoint. What he does find is some of the weirdest shit you’ll ever see in a movie, and some of it so unsettling I almost got up and stood in the hallway of the theatre for a few minutes to decompress. I also saw The Empty Man in an Empty Theatre, I was literally the only person to buy a ticket and that decidedly added to the spook factor. Aside from being fucking scary as all hell, this is a truly intriguing story with imagination, innovation and so many unpredictable surprises it can sometimes feel like a patchwork quilt of ideas, motifs and thematic material stitched together, albeit in a very fluid and naturally flowing way. There’s shades of Lovecraft, references to Nietzsche and other philosophical ideals and even sly references to everything from The Wicker Man to Blair Witch to the Donner Pass Incident to many forms of demonic lore. It’s too bad they barely marketed it and just sort of lobbed it into theatres with nary a whisper of trailers, posters or internet ads beforehand because no one has heard of it d I wouldn’t even have either unless it was recommended to me in a frenzy of enthusiasm, but it deserves to be sought out and, if it’s playing near you and you feel safe, demands to be seen on the big screen. If you like your horror wild, wooly, whacked out, fucked up and worthy of eccentric cult status, this is your bet. I couldn’t recommend it enough.
Frank and Kyle discuss the latest VOD horror sensation, THE VOID. They also discuss the latest footage from ALIEN: COVENANT. We’ll be back next week with an episode focused on Lawrence Kasdan’s SILVERADO and our top five performances from Danny Glover.
The best horror film of the year so far has arrived in the form of The Void, a genuinely spooky, deliriously gruesome 80’s throwback that gets tone, pacing and atmosphere right on the money, hitting that sweet spot that not all homages can fully grasp. It’s this year’s It Follows, I’ll put it that way. Balls out ballistic, atmospherically eerie and gorier than a chainsaw mud wrestling competition for spastics, it starts somewhat reigned in and then amps up to feverish nightmare fuel once it gets going, and boy does it ever get going. When emulating classics from distant eras, it’s important that these films find their own specific flavour and unique groove, as well as cleverly wearing influences on their sleeve. There’s an obvious adoration for John Carpenter’s The Thing running through it like an undercurrent, but the filmmakers find their own otherworldly pulse, and the fabulously icky body horror is subservient to an overarching plot involving forces from another dimension beyond ours, which a few lunatics are foolishly trying to contact. That happens later on though, once that special ripcord within the horror genre is pulled, the one that separates an uneasy opening act, a calm before the storm and the craziness to follow as soon as that first inciting attack occurs. The premise? Solid and simple: a small town cop (Aaron Poole) brings a blood soaked drifter to a nearly shut down county hospital run by a weary skeleton crew. No sooner has he arrived, bad shit starts happening. Some of the night staff go madly insane and start lobbing their own body parts off, while white cloaked cult weirdos gather outside to prevent anyone from leaving the building. A gruff, shotgun toting badass (Daniel Feathers) breaks in and pretty much violently threatens anything that moves. Corpses come alive and transform into glistening, pulsating piles of aborted pizza pocket waste, and to use the time honoured slogan, ‘all hell’ quite literally breaks loose. The head doctor (veteran character actor Kenneth Welsh, aka Windom Earle, is devilishly scary) clearly knows more than he lets on, and the new bodies pile up on the rotting older ones as dark forces gather for some kind of… birth. The actual how’s and whys of the story are left appropriately vague, as is tradition in hectic 80’s creature features with a supernatural twist. The term ‘void’ is never mentioned by anyone, rather hinted at by glimpses of a dreamy, austere parallel dimension that calls to mind everything from Altered States to Beyond The Black Rainbow to The Cell. A buddy of mine referred to the film as “Carpenter Fanboy Porn”, and while that’s definitely one angle you can look at it from, there’s more than just that, if you widen your gaze. It’s clearly a love letter to the man and his work, but it has its own thing going on as well, and feels at once as fresh as the titles it looks up to must have when they came out, and as lovingly nostalgic as a throwback piece should. The filmmakers have deliberately left it open for a sequel as well. Bring on the franchise, I say, the genre can really use stuff like this to fill the Void.