The Empty Man


Viewed – 10 April 2021 online rental

A group of back packers in the Tibetan mountains stumble (literally) upon an ancient skeleton in a cave that doesn’t look human, and unwittingly unleash a terrible spirit. Years later an ex-cop (James Badge Dale) investigates the disappearance of a young woman, which may be linked to local urban myth ‘the empty man’.

On paper this could read like any other boogie man horror, reminiscent of The Bye Bye Man or even Candyman. However first time director David Prior’s movie is far more layered and interesting than that. Whilst it delivers the expected horror tropes, superstition, religious cults and a creepy mystery – it’s how it’s delivered that makes this one stand on its own. Prior was schooled in directing by the likes of David Fincher and it’s clearly paid off. This is a very atmospheric and well made horror movie, full of eye catching camera work and meticulous editing that delivered several unnerving images and sequences (that freaky bonfire scene). It’s a movie I’m sure also rewards repeat viewing with how it subtly sign posts an eventual twist by weaving hints and linked imagery throughout.

Its the kind of movie that doesn’t deliver all the answers, and I found the ending a bit ‘out there’ … but otherwise this was a slick, and occasionally really unsettling experience. At 2 hours 17 minutes it’s long for the average horror but this never dragged, and pulled me in quickly, and didn’t loosen its grip until the credits rolled. One to watch.

Verdict: Recommended

Ring


Viewed – 22 March 2019. Blu-ray

Following the mysterious deaths of a group of students, a rookie female reporter investigates links to an urban legend revolving around a cursed video tape. The movie that started it all. An international sensation that spawned several sequels as well as an American remake. So how does this 1998 original hold up? Well, what Japanese horror does well and this does equally well is that ‘unsettling stillness’. Dark Water, by same director Hideo Nakata, avoids clichéd jump scares or gore, favouring gradual menace this movie cemented and made a genre all its own. Add influences from traditional Japanese folklore, and traditional detective stories as well as Japanese ghost stories spawned what we now know as J-horror.

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More an eerie drama than full-on scare-fest, this feels rather lightweight despite its reputation, even though that slow burning ticking clock plot device helps deliver a sense of dread that makes that famed, often satirised and copied ending all the more powerful. However, performances are largely only passable and often overly theatrical.  Thankfully, Nakata’s direction is restrained but suitably creepy, helped by a great sense of unease if avoiding full on chills mostly., and that incredibly effective, freaky soundtrack does crank up the horror.  Yet overall, this is rather dated today and the plot doesn’t make much sense, leaving many questions unanswered.  A girl trapped in a well, a curse, deaths but er… how does that connect to videotapes? It seems to me like a convenient plot device.  It’s also  to me this was a clear influence on recent cult hit ‘It Follows’ amongst other movies.

The new 4k restoration from Arrow Video boasts a decent picture with effective sound treatment in DTS HD master audio 5.1. The movie is rather stilted and bland to look at yet this only adds to it’s atmosphere. Extras consist of a fascinating commentary from film historian David Kalat. We also get a complete version of the cursed video (date you watch it?) and several worthwhile featurettes.  There are also trailers and a photo gallery. Decent treatment for a classic that whilst diluted by modern standards, still deserves its place in horror movie history.  And yes, I prefer it over its Hollywood remake.

Verdict:

(the movie). 3.5 /5

(the Blu-Ray)  4 /5