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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.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018) Review

Time: 90 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Sex scenes, offensive language & drug use
Cast:
Chloë Grace Moretz as Cameron Post
Jennifer Ehle as Dr. Lydia March
John Gallagher, Jr. as Reverend Rick
Sasha Lane as Jane Fonda
Forrest Goodluck as Adam Red Eagle
Emily Skeggs as Erin
Melanie Ehrlich as Helen Showalter
Owen Campbell as Mark
Quinn Shephard as Coley Taylor
Marin Ireland as Bethany
Kerry Butler as Ruth Post
Director: Desiree Akhavan

In 1993 after teenage Cameron (Chloe Grace Moretz) is caught in the backseat of a car with the prom queen, she is sent away to a treatment centre in a remote area called God’s Promise. While she is being subjected to questionable gay conversion therapies, she bonds with some fellow residents as they pretend to go along with the process while waiting to be released.

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I had been hearing about The Miseducation of Cameron Post for a while, it has Chloe Grace Moretz and involved gay conversion therapy (oddly enough not the only 2018 movie about the subject matter) and the movie was apparently really good. I wasn’t really sure what to expect outside of that. The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a really good movie and is really worth seeing by everyone.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is based off a book of the same name by Emily M. Danforth, a book that is apparently quite good. I was really invested in the movie from start to finish despite the off-putting subject matter. I know that some people will be turned off because what this movie is about. When you hear the concept on paper, it sounds painful to watch but while it can be tragic and frustrating at many points (intentionally so), I still maintain that it really is worth seeing. It’s not as much of a heavy watch as you’d think it would be, even though it definitely is heavy in parts, and the emotional bits to the story really do hit hard. Yet it’s never heavy handing or overbearing either, it’s not shamelessly using shock value to provoke a response out of you or anything (not that there are a bunch of shocking moments or anything but you get what I’m meaning), it feels honest. I don’t know too much about the subject matter (aside from just hearing about it) but I am very aware of it, and watching the movie, they seemed to have handled it appropriately. My biggest negative of the movie is its length at around an hour and a half long, that’s really short and it feels like there was a lot more story that needed to be told. The ending is also quite abrupt and open ended, however I feel like it was the intention to leave things open ended. It’s more the length that bothered me, like it felt like there was a lot more story that is missing from the final film. By the time it was wrapping up, it felt like we only covered two thirds of the story at most.

The cast all around is great. Chloe Grace Moretz is a very talented actress and here she gives one of her best performances in the lead role. The other kids at the conversion therapy centre including Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck and Emily Skeggs are also good in their roles. Even the people running the therapy place with John Gallagher Jr. and Jennifer Ehle were really good and felt like real people despite their positions and their roles in the story.

The film was directed well by Desiree Akhavan, she actually directed (and also co-lead starred in) Creep 2, a very different type of movie which I also liked quite a bit. There’s not a lot to say about the direction really, it’s competently filmed and is just right for the story. Not to say that the direction is basic or anything, it’s at a level where it serves the script and the writing appropriately and is at the fine level of not being subpar but not being overwhelming either. The story is rather intimate film, mostly taking place in the conversion centre, and the direction accompanied that well.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a really good movie, tragic, funny, emotional and most of all really important. The performances and direction really elevate the movie even further. It really could’ve benefited a lot more from a longer runtime but it is still well worth a watch and is very deserving of all the praise.