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The riveting prologue of an otherwise-polarizing failure set the bar too high way too early

Unfortunately, great movies need to maintain quality for all three acts.

via 20th Century Studios

Horror always tends to split opinion among fans and critics, but very rarely does the former offer higher marks to a scary movie than the latter. That turned out to be the case with The Empty Man, though, which was ironically fitting given that the film suffered through a production that could generously be described as torturous.

Even though shooting took place in late 2016, it wouldn’t be until October 2020 that writer and director David Prior’s supernatural mystery was sent out into the wilderness to die a slow and painful death – earning just $5 million at the box office on a $16 million budget, and that was after surviving a rushed editing process that saw the filmmaker forced to cobble together a rapid-fire assembly cut in order to meet tax-friendly deadlines.

the empty man
via 20th Century Studios

Critics have awarded The Empty Man a Rotten Tomatoes score of 77 percent, which is solid for a lo-fi chiller. However, audiences have only deemed it worthy of a 39 percent rating – and it’s very rare for reviews to be twice as positive as fan reactions. Despite its polarizing nature, one thing everyone can agree on based on a recent Reddit thread is that the riveting prologue that occupies the first 20 minutes of the running time is the highlight by far. In fact, many think it’s so good that the rest of the film suffered as a result.

The majority of The Empty Man takes place in 2018, but the first act unfolds in 1995. Four friends are hiking in a remote valley in Bhutan when they stumble upon a skeleton embedded in a cafe wall, and it doesn’t take long before darkness begins to descend on the group in both a figurative and literal sense. It’s jaw-dropping stuff, but it arguably turned out to be detrimental to the final product because it was so damned good – and a lot of folks would love to see it spun off into its own feature.

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Scott Campbell

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