There was no compelling impetus behind my decision to watch The Empty Man (2020) beyond a recent uptick in my interest in horror, plus the presence of the underrated James Badge Dale. It’s a modest but accomplished dark fantasy about a former cop named James Lasombra (Dale) who, while still grieving the recent deaths of his wife and son, undertakes an investigation: to a find the missing Amanda (Sasha Frolova), a neighboring teen. Amanda left a frightening note written on the bathroom mirror: “The empty man made me do it.” This first clue kicks off Lasombra’s pursuit of the truth, which ultimately involves a creepy urban legend and a strange cult.
While there’s nothing earth-shatteringly gripping about The Empty Man, I enjoyed its patient, eerie construction and subdued what-the-fuck ambience. It’s definitely no Twin Peaks: The Return, but it scratches a similar itch, with Dale aiding things immeasurably with his confident, nuanced presence. The cast, which includes the similarly underrated Marin Ireland and the always entertaining Stephen Root, lends solid support. In terms of sheer thrills and terror, it’s not particularly memorable, but overall it’s an appealing and atmospheric horror film.