One of the strangest and most surprising hits to come out of 2020 was David Prior’s The Empty Man. Calling it a hit is actually a stretch because it was a financial bomb and even now, hardly anyone has seen it, but, like a good jump scare no one saw coming, it’s crawled out from the abyss of unknown obscurity and less than a year after its release has already reached cult status.
How or why a movie might develop a cult following is in many ways inexplainable. Uusally its a term given to oddball films that didn’t get much attention upon inital release. Sometimes it takes years to develop like for Bee Movie or sometimes it occurs instantaneously, partially spurred on by controversial reception such as with Spring Break. More often than not though, it’s just a lucky combination of the times, circumstances, and how certain people discuss the film in question. The Empty Man is not an old film nor a controversial one, and while it’s unique it’s not that unique, and yet it’s already gained a reputation similar to that of a film that’s been locked underground for decades viewed only by die-hard cinephiles at underground festivals from bootlegged reels. A film people keep talking about despite very little having seen it.
The fact that no one’s seen The Empty Man is not at all surprising. The marketing campaign for this film was non-existent. There was no press on it, no commercials or TV spots, hardly any theaters screened it, and the few critics that bothered to review it were brutal. A very misleading trailer was released just a week before it hit theaters on October 23, 2020, just in time for Halloween but in the middle of a pandemic. Then, just as soon as it arrived, it vanished. A puff of smoke that didn’t even spark a fire until out of nowhere, it suddenly reappeared. Brought back to life thanks to a home video release.
If you’re interested in the drama surrounding this film, its production, and its troubled release, director David Prior discusses it all in detail in a very good interview for Thrillist. He’s beautifully bitter, I love it.
Hype is a double-edged sword. It can spread news about a film faster than anything as well as premature love, but it can also ruin a film by creating expectations that can’t ever be measured up.
The ominously titled The Empty Man, usually paired with the image of a many-armed Kali-like skeleton in a cave was the king of “best movies of 2020” lists that started coming out early this year. The movie itself began to feel haunted. The image of that beautifully crafted skeleton was an itch in my brain that I needed to scratch, and now that I have, I almost wished that I hadn’t. I wished that the film had stayed as it was- mysterious, unknown, and unseen.
This is not to say that it’s a bad film. The Empty Man is far from a bad film, rough around the edges with plenty of room for improvement, but not bad at all. It’s an ambitious slow-burn horror film that presents cosmic theories with Lovecraftian undertones. However, the slow creeping wonder that surrounds this film doesn’t match the final product. Not an unsettling masterpiece designed to leave viewers feeling like they’d been gutted and stripped raw. This is not the case. The Empty Man does leave you with something, something very unique to the story it is telling but nothing sinister or dreadful. Just something very empty. You’ll walk away from this film feeling empty. The saying “if you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back at you,” will have a whole other meaning because instead of imagining something inside that empty abyss, you’ll see it just as it is- an empty part of the Earth.
Based on the graphic novel by Cullen Bunn and Vanesa R. Del Rey, The Empty Man was both adapted for the screen and directed by David Prior. Marketed as an urban legend-inspired slasher like Bye Bye Man, this film had a very hard time finding its audience especially since this film is geared towards a very particular type of audience. Not very good for plain entertainment, nor something to just put on and watch in a numb haze. It’s a complex thought process that’s filled with plenty of twists and turns, most are somewhat obvious but only if you’re paying proper attention.
Starring James Badge Dale, Marin Ireland, and Sasha Frolova, The Empty Man follows an ex-cop who stumbles upon a secret cult while searching for a friend’s missing daughter. I know it sounds super straightforward but, trust me, there’s a whole lot more going on. Coming in at 137 minutes, this film is certainly a lot to take in. Although not complicated or hard to follow, it’s just a lot. Essentially three movies in one, the film starts with a 20 or so minute prologue set in 1995 featuring a group of hikers that all meet a violent end. It’s a prologue that’s meant to come back to us later. Its purpose is to connect with the final and third act of the film and hovers around the primary story like the bones under a graveyard.
Fast forward years later to modern day Missouri, we’re introduced to ex-cop James Lasombra and the teenager Amanda, an emo version of Alice in Wonderland who is a firm believer in the local urban legend about “the emtpy man.” According to the legend, if you blow into an empty bottle on a bridge and think of him, the empty man will haunt you for three days until he finally appears before you on that final day. Amanda and her friends go missing after playing the game so now it’s up to Jacob to try and figure out not only who the empty man is but where he took Amanda.
Working alongside the rules of the legend, the entire film takes place over the course of three days and within those three days, Jacob falls deep down the rabbit hole. He discovers secrets upon secrets all of which connects to a facility called Pontifex Institute and the what may or may not be a Tulpa. By the way, if you know what a Tulpa is, there is a strong chance that you’ll be able to guess the ending to this movie.
If I had any real complaints about this movie it would be about the pacing and the “creature” design of the empty man during the few glimpses that we actually see him. As mentioned earlier, this movie is 137 minutes long, and it’s one of those movies where the three acts are very noticeable in their separation, and it’s the middle act that drags. The film’s 20-minute prologue and third act, which takes place within the last 70 or so minutes, are continuations of each other with the middle used to explain the gap between them. The Empty Man spends half its runtime setting things up, and it not only feels like a setup, but at times its a terrible slog.
One half is noticeably better than the other, but it’s thanks to the long setup that it works. It’s got a good payoff. This is not a masterful work of terror or tension, some sequences come off as awkward and rough as if they’d been rushed through, but there are certain moments, especially in that last half, where tension gets high and the fear of what’s going on around Jacob gets very unsettling. He’s on the bridge on his way to “endless black chaos.” (3.5 / 5)
Movies n TV
Scary Fairy Godmother YouTube Channel
Youtube is a great place for those of us who like a spooky story. There we can find a mixture of true tales and cutting-edge fiction. These range everywhere from amateur footage to professionally crafted videos.
Today, we’re talking about a hidden YouTube gem, Scary Fairy Godmother.
The channel launched in December 2014. Since its birth, there has been just one topic of discussion. The fey is not to be trusted, and in fact, is something to be feared.
Some of the stories on this channel are fiction. But some are claimed as first-hand accounts of dangerous interactions with fairies.
Now, whether or not we believe in fairies isn’t the point of this review. I am only here to talk about the level of entertainment to be found on this YouTube channel.
A recent video titled Melsh Dick (don’t laugh) was a common fairy tale. A girl is lured away from her friends by a boy who claims to be her cousin. He doesn’t give her a name, they never do. Fortunately, the girl escapes. Others haven’t been so lucky.
A favorite video of mine, being a city dweller, was Urban Fairies. This video consisted of eight encounters with fairies in an urban setting. Many of these encounters are nice. There’s a beautiful swirl of lights seen out of an apartment window. A person is lured into a city park by a lovely young woman who might or might not have been human. And another person receives some personal and sage advice from what looks to be a homeless man while she’s out walking her dog. All of these stories were delightful, reminding us that magic can be found in any setting.
For creepier encounters, we turn to the video House Fairy Horrors. Warning, you might not be as thrilled about the Elf on a Shelf after this one.
In this video we hear the tale of a goblin that took over one room of a person’s house, chasing out anyone who tried to go in. A young child sings to scare sprites out of their home, only to have them hold a grudge and return years later. There’s even a shadow man who seems to encourage a vegan lifestyle.
Some of the videos have themes, like frost fairies or encounters with fairy royalty. Some are eerie tales plucked from Reddit, real life or imagined.
Of course, the creepiest tales are those where people are lured into the forest by the fey. You’ll find several of these stories on Scary Fairy Godmother. It always seems to be in good fun, until one finds themselves lost.
These stories might not seem very scary to us. The tellers of these tales come away without a scratch after all. But consider this. The only time we’d hear about a fairy abduction is if it fails. We do not know what happens to the others, only that they’re not around to tell us.
How many people went missing in your town last year?
From what we can gather from these videos, we are never safe from the fey. They can reside in our homes, our cities, and our parks. They can even reach us in our dreams. What they want with us may vary. Perhaps it’s just to give us a scare. Maybe they enjoy playing tricks on us. Or maybe they’re vengeful, angry at the disrespect mankind has shown to the environment, and eager to punish us for our abuses. Whatever the reasons, it’s probably best if we steer clear.
The Scary Fairy Godmother YouTube channel is one with staying power. The fan base is small, but it’s growing. It’s a great one to throw on while your hands are busy, or if you just want a soothing voice to tell you a scary story. So if you’re a fan of the creepier side of life, do yourself a favor and check it out.(3.5 / 5)
The Last of Us: Episodes 8 and 9: The End
Sometimes life gets in the way. Maybe you watched the episodes the nights they came out, but then you got your stomach tattooed so you didn’t have the energy to type on your computer, and then you had to work nonstop for six days straight and housesit 20 miles out of town, and then you got into a hit-and-run car accident with your boyfriend (luckily you’re both okay but really very angry at the asshole that just drove away), etc. etc.. March has been a lot, but I finally rolled up my sleeves, made time for my computer and stopped procrastinating the job of writing my final review on HBO’s The Last of Us.
Here we will cover the final events of Joel and Ellie’s saga. Both episodes were directed by Ali Abassi and written by Craig Mazin and, in episode 9, Neil Druckmann. The adaptation continued to cover the story elements of the game, leaving out and/or changing most of the fighting and action scenes. This change is especially noticeable in episode 9, “Look for the Light,” but we’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s first do a recap of episode 8, “When We Are in Need.”
“When We Are in Need”
Ellie is on the hunt for food and comes across a deer, which she shoots down almost effortlessly. It is in this moment that she meets a preacher named David (Scott Shepherd) and his partner, James (Troy Baker, (Joel’s voice actor in the video games)). After a moment of hostility towards the stranger, Ellie agrees to give the deer to David in exchange for penicillin. Shortly after giving Joel the medication, Ellie has to leave again to deter David’s religious crew from hunting her and Joel. It turns out Joel killed a few of David’s men, and the preacher is out for revenge.
The religious group captures Ellie and puts her in a cell, where she discovers David has been feed them human remains. Meanwhile, Joel finally awakes and is stable enough to escape the house and search for Ellie. He tortures two men into disclosing her location, but he is almost too late. David places Ellie on a butcher block and is just about to chop her up when she narrowly escapes. The two fight until she finally has the advantage and takes him down, bludgeoning him to death with an insurmountable fury of vengeance.
“Look for the Light”
Episode 9 begins with a flashback of Ellie’s pregnant mother, Anna (Ashley Johnson, (Ellie’s voice actor in the video games). An infected bit Anna just moments before she gave birth to Ellie. Moments pass, and Marlene finds the two in a pool of blood. She is forced to take the baby and kill her friend. Fast forward 14 years, and Joel and Ellie are almost done with their journey. They finally made it to Utah. Ellie, still processing everything that happened with David, is sad and somber. Joel tries his best to cheer her up, but nothing seems to work.
Suddenly, the youth sees something and runs off to get a better look. Joel chases her until he stops and stares in awe. The camera pans from him to Ellie inches away from a giraffe. She is her old self again, cracking jokes and asking a myriad of questions. Later on, when Joel reveals that he tried to kill himself after Sarah’s death, Ellie provides him as much comfort as she can. But the fact that Joel can trust her enough to reveal such a secret means is a comfort on its own. He asks Ellie to read some puns to lighten the mood, but his moment is interrupted when a group of Fireflies knock them out.
Joel wakes up in a hospital to see Marleen, who informs him that the doctors are preparing Ellie for surgery to remove the part of her brain that makes her immune. This procedure, however, will result in Ellie’s death. No matter how hard Joel fights, Marlene won’t budge. She instead has two Firefly soldiers escort Joel out of the hospital, but he kills them and everyone else until he finds the surgery room, where he murders the doctor in cold blood. He escapes with an unconscious Ellie and makes it as far as the parking garage until Marlene stops them. The camera cuts to Joel driving a car with Ellie in the backseat.
Ellie wakes up and asks Joel what happens. While he lies to her that there is no cure, the camera flickers back to the parking garage scene with Marlene. He shoots her once. After listening to her begs and pleas, he kills her with a final shot.
The duo have to walk the last few miles to Tommy’s town. At the top of a waterfall, they get a spectacular view of their new home, their new futures. Before making the final trek, Ellie tells Joel about her past and how she saw her best friend die. This lead to watching Tess, Sam and Henry die because of the disease. The fact that they all had to go through such gruesome deaths, only for there not to be a cure, is too much for Ellie to handle. She makes Joel swear that he is telling the truth, and in a beat, he does.
HBO’s The Last of Us is a remarkable video game adaptation that deserves all the high praise it has received the past few months. From the set design and effects to the filming, screenwriting and acting, the show is a peak example of how to do an adaptation well. It is heart-throbbing and terrifying.
A few issues with HBO’s adaptation is how much they excluded the game play scenes. Despite the world being filled with infected, they were rarely on screen. This is disappointing, especially because it increases the stakes and so much of Joel and Ellie’s relationship builds in these fight scenes. The biggest disappointment was in episode 9, in which the show completely cut out the game’s highway scene. Furthermore, there are numerous creative weapons the show could have included to illustrate Joel and Ellie’s means of survival, from molotov cocktails and nail bombs to the beloved shotgun and its shorty companion.
Despite these small quibbles, the show is arguably one of the best American video game adaptations out there. Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey were the perfect casting choices for Joel and Ellie, as was the casting for all the other characters.
It will be exciting to see where Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin take The Last of Us 2. I hope they will include more gameplay (aka a little more violence), more screen time for infected, and some creative liberties with the original story while also sticking to the heart of it. We will just have to wait and see what they come up with. Until we meet again, don’t forgot to read about the other shows and games we’re loving here at HauntedMTL.
(4 / 5)
Movies n TV
Let the Wrong One In, a Film Review
Let the Wrong One In is a horror comedy directed and written by Conor McMahon, starring Karl Rice, Eoin Duffy, and Anthony Head.
Let the Wrong One In is a 2021 horror comedy directed and written by Conor McMahon, starring Karl Rice, Eoin Duffy, and Anthony Head. This film is currently available per subscription to Amazon Prime (through Shudder) or Shudder directly.
Matt (Karl Rice) and Deco (Eoin Duffy) are estranged brothers, but when Deco finds himself strangely ill, he seeks his brother out. Through obvious signs and tropable behaviors, the brothers realize Deco is a vampire. What follows spirals into a plot of brotherly guilt, passive aggression, and bloody retribution.
What I Like
With the titular reference to Let the Right One In, the idea interested me. After the trailer, I realized this film doesn’t relate to or parody the novel or film aside from being about vampires. As a fan of the franchise, it would have been interesting to find a subversion. However, the film can charm a viewer at certain points, receiving a few laughs from me.
Either Let the Wrong One In is a micro budget film or imitates such films. The special effects ensure you know this as intended, if perhaps out of necessity. If you can accept these points, the film might be an entertaining viewing experience.
The chemistry between the two leads is where the film shines. Both Karl Rice and Eoin Duffy feel like bickering brothers. With Deco’s performance as an addict, the film even ties into elements that family members of addicts know all too well.
Anthony Head (of Buffy fame) also plays his campy and ridiculous vampire hunter role to perfection, even seeming competent in the profession despite the character being more of a joke. Anthony Head can chew a scene, becoming an easy highlight of the film.
I like how vampires are named vampires without the cliche attempt to figure out what they are. It seems to be a rare thing to see on film. When this standard of logic does appear, it helps me believe the characters a little more. Though Let the Wrong One In doesn’t care if you believe in its characters.
Potential Trigger Warnings or Tired Tropes
The film is a collection of tropes wrapped around a campy and zany direction. I wouldn’t particularly say they are tired or are different enough to have a pass, but one goes into a film like this with these expectations. Don’t expect unique and refreshing subversions.
Addiction plays a role in the film, including the emotional manipulation addicts deploy to control others. The film doesn’t depict these elements effectively or abhorrently, existing as a plot point first and foremost. If this plotline upsets you, perhaps give this film a skip.
There is a point where implied violence occurs on an animal, but it certainly doesn’t take this idea too seriously. In fact, the creature gets a few shining moments. Still, I understand some get squirmy at this.
What I Dislike
Let the Wrong One In falls under the “so bad it’s good” category, though purposely done to be so. It’s a campy and dumb movie for those interested in passing the time. There is nothing wrong with satisfying this niche, but it’s not an enjoyable time for all.
The brotherly relationship should be the center of the film, which might have focused the film more. However, the film has a big bad that feels somewhat out of place and unnecessary. It also adds to the runtime, which isn’t long at 1 hour and 40 minutes. But it feels too long for this plot.
Again, I wonder why Let the Right One In exists as the film’s namesake as it has no notable connection to the franchise, even in parody.
While I must admit that more jokes landed with me than I expected, most of the zany humor falls flops. This film seems to be a Shaun of the Dead clone but falls far from the other’s success, lacking the focus of its predecessor.
As mentioned, if you want a horror comedy to turn your brain off to, Let the Wrong One In can certainly be that film. However, there are better examples to pull from. The lack of direction and comparisons to greater options makes this fall even further on the recommendation list. One additional point in the film’s favor is that you will likely know if the film is for you within the first few minutes of viewing.
(1.5 / 5)