Tag Archives: James Badge Dale

The Empty Man (2021) Review

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The Empty Man

Time: 137 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, horror & suicide
Cast:
James Badge Dale as James Lasombra
Marin Ireland as Nora Quail
Stephen Root as Arthur Parsons
Ron Canada as Detective Villiers
Robert Aramayo as Garrett
Joel Courtney as Brandon Maibaum
Sasha Frolova as Amanda Quail
Director: David Prior

On the trail of a missing girl, an ex-cop comes across a secretive group attempting to summon a terrifying supernatural entity.

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I went into The Empty Man blind and unaware of what to expect from it. All I knew was that it was a horror movie whose release was essentially shafted during the merger between Disney and Fox, but gained positive word of mouth. Knowing only that, I went into the movie open minded and I think that it may well be one of the most pleasant surprises from 2021.

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For what it’s worth, I do think it’s worth going into The Empty Man not knowing anything about it. The plot at first sounds like another creepypasta like the Slender Man, and the premise is simple at first as its about a missing girl and the protagonist detective trying to figure out what happened to her. However over time it becomes more than what is expected. Essentially The Empty Man is a psychological detective thriller with a supernatural element. It is definitely horror, but more of a hybrid horror film which mixes grim detective thriller with elements of cosmic horror and surreal doomsday cults. There’s even a surprising amount of existential dread throughout, with a constant ominous tone which keeps you unnerved throughout. There are some compelling ideas and the film isn’t afraid of being ambiguous at times. The opening 25 minutes are really strong, and it is practically its own movie as it seems so far removed from the rest of the film, but still ties back into the main plot in a meaningful way. I found the plot compelling and riveting as it takes its twists and turns, and I wanted to see where it would go. The final act is captivating and it has one of the most memorable horror endings in recent years. The movie is very long at around 2 hours and 20 minutes long, and it is definitely a slow burner, so it requires a lot of patience. However I was so invested with what was happening that the runtime didn’t prove to be a problem, even if the pacing stumbles here and there.

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The acting from everyone is good but it mostly comes down to the lead played by James Badge Dale as a detective investigating the missing girl. It’s a very strong performance and he does very well at carrying the movie himself. He effectively captures the terror, confusion and even the pitch black humour of the character, and he was compelling to watch throughout the film.

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This is David Prior’s directorial debut, and this is a very confident and great first film from him, with evidently a clear vision. Prior has actually worked with David Fincher and you feel his influence throughout, especially when it comes to the investigation side of the story. The Empty Man is incredibly well shot with beautiful and moody cinematography. The visuals are interesting and the imagery is memorable. There’s also a very haunting sound design which goes towards helping its ominous atmosphere. The scares themselves mostly come from the eerie atmosphere and thick tension, and they are very effective.

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The Empty Man definitely won’t work for everyone, its slow pace and more subdued nature might turn some people off. However I thought it was great, a great mix of investigation thriller with cosmic and cult horror, making for a very effective film and one of the best horror films of 2021. I’m interested in whatever David Prior does next; I hope he gets to direct more because his work here is fantastic.

Hold the Dark (2018) Review

Time: 125 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Jeffrey Wright as Russell Core
Alexander Skarsgård as Vernon Sloane
James Badge Dale as Donald Marium
Riley Keough as Medora Sloane
Julian Black Antelope as Cheeon
Macon Blair as Shan
Director: Jeremy Saulnier

Summoned to a remote Alaskan village to search for the wolves that killed three children, a wolf expert (Jeffrey Wright) soon finds himself unravelling a harrowing mystery.

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I recently watched through Jeremy Saulnier’s filmography, he seemed to be getting better with every film and having loved Green Room on rewatch, so I was looking forward to his next film Hold the Dark. It actually wasn’t quite what I was expecting but it really worked for me. It’s very ambitious, dark and haunting, with really great performances and as usual Jeremy Saulnier’s direction really was great.

This is a very different kind of movie for Jeremy Saulnier to be taking on. This is the first film that he’s directed that he hasn’t written, instead the script is written by longtime Jeremy Saulnier collaborator Macon Blair, and the script was really great. It’s based on a book of the same name written by William Giraldi, I don’t know how much the movie differs from the book since I never read it. The plot summary about Jeffrey Wright being hired by Riley Keough to hunt down the wolf who took her child is pretty much just the first act, it takes a very different path after that and I didn’t know this going in. In that it surprised me, and I recommend not going into this movie knowing too much about it. People who are expecting the guy who made Green Room to make a straight forward thriller based in a snowy environment are going to be taken aback at the complex story and the amount of thematic elements to it (the thematic elements I’ll let you find out for yourself). The story is dark, disturbing and haunting, and it just all really worked for me. Something that a lot of people will take issue with is that there are some unanswered questions, especially towards the end. It’s pretty ambiguous with how it ends and I myself am not quite sure about how I feel about it. With that said I didn’t dislike it and I was fine with it, but I can see a lot of people taking issue with it. Also if you’re not completely paying attention to what’s going on, it can be easy to miss some details of the movie. For example, I was paying attention to the movie quite a bit and there was a reveal involving Alexander Skarsgard and Riley Keough’s characters that I missed until hearing it from others after the movie, I don’t know if it was the movie or just me. Saulnier’s films are pretty self contained at around 90 minutes, but Hold the Dark is longer at around 2 hours long. This film takes place over a period of time in various different places, and as previously mentioned is much more complicated. That does mean that the pacing can slow down a little, and some of the tension can be reduced, but it still worked for the type of movie it was going for, and on the whole I was invested from start to finish.

Quite often with Jeremy Saulnier movies, the characters are a little underwritten, but Blair’s script actually gives the main players enough depth. Jeffrey Wright is one of the most underrated actors working together and it’s great watching him lead his own movie. He gives one of his best performances and seems to have a lot going on in his personal life. Unlike Saulnier’s other film protagonists, his character of Russell Core is competent enough for the task ahead of him, yet he still feels rather vulnerable in his situations. I do wish though that we got to know a little more about his character. Alexander Skarsgard is really great and haunting in his role, he’s unnerving when he’s on screen and was such a great screen presence. Riley Keough is also really good in her performance as the mother who hires Jeffrey Wright at the beginning of the movie, definitely deserving of a lot of praise. All the acting is quite great, James Badge Dale is good as a police chief and Macon Blair is also good in a smaller role.

Jeremy Saulnier’s direction is great as usual, Hold the Dark is a much more ambitious film and was on a much larger scale, and he was more than up for the challenge. It feels like it’s convincingly in this snowy and cold environment being rather isolated, it feels very much like Wind River. Saulnier as usual builds up a great atmosphere over the course of the movie, with so many scenes adding to the tension. There is a shootout sequence which is definitely one of the best filmed scenes of 2018. So incredibly tense, violent and captivating from start to finish. I think Hold the Dark might actually be worth watching for that scene alone. The score was done by Brooke and Will Blair, who also did the score to Green Room. Once again it’s really good, suitably chilling and haunting, just like the whole movie.

Hold the Dark is on Netflix and it’s really worth checking out, I know that it didn’t quite work for everyone, but it’s one of my favourite films of 2018. It’s a very affecting and gripping movie, with great writing and performances and fantastic direction. It may not answer all the questions that are posed earlier on, but it nonetheless was an effective movie, and one that I loved. It’s around about at the level of Green Room, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of Jeremy Saulnier’s future work.