The Empty Man

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Empty Man Movie Poster Image
Bloody violence, some sex in disappointing sci-fi chiller.
  • R
  • 2020
  • 137 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The movie will definitely have viewers discussing what happened. But the answer may not be so easy to reach. There might be something in Arthur's dialogue, offering some things to think about regarding the world and existence. But otherwise, there aren't any serious messages here.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters are more like puppets than real characters. There's little to no admirable behavior.


Neck-slicing, stabbing. A character is stabbed in the face by a ghost/monster and then actually stabs herself. Punching. Character shot in head, with huge blood spray on wall. Other blood spurts. Characters fall off a cliff. Scary ghost/wraith attacking. Dog corpse, covered in maggots, with tubs full of blood nearby. Bodies hang from nooses. Bloody nose, splatting in sink. Creepy cave with eerie idol made of bones. Scars on character's wrists. Character runs a shop full of guns/weapons; he sells pepper spray to someone. Guns and knives assembled for climax. General creepy, unsettling scenes. Violent incidents described ("a woman fed her baby to a pack of dogs," etc.).


Woman in steam bath; her bare bottom is shown (side view), and her breasts are slightly visible through the steam, then one breast is clearly visible. One character kisses another, with nuzzling from behind, caressing, and then sex from behind, with one thrust and no explicit nudity. Flirting, hugging.


Several uses of "f--k," plus "bulls--t," "s--t," "a--hole," and "goddamn," plus a use of "Christ." Middle-finger gestures.


Google, Wikipedia pages shown on computer screen.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens smoke and drink in more than one scene. Main character smokes cigarettes many times. Character drinks several tequilas and beers with lunch. Several instances of whiskey drinking at home. Main character takes prescription Doxepin.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Empty Man is a sci-fi/horror movie about a former cop who's investigating the disappearance of a teen girl who took part in an urban legend ritual. Expect plenty of bloody scenes, with stabbing and slicing, punching, and a character getting shot in the head. There's also a dog corpse covered in maggots, characters going over a cliff to their deaths, a scary monster, many creepy moments, and more. There's some nudity in the form of the breasts and bottom of a woman in a steam bath. And there's a sex scene in which a man nuzzles a woman from behind, caresses and kisses her, and then thrusts once from behind (no explicit nudity). Language includes "f--k," "s--t," and more. Characters, including teens, smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol (sometimes lots of it) in more than one scene.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byJoemama67 April 20, 2021

Not for everybody

This movie is fantastic and extremely ambitious. If you like a movie ending where everything tied in a nice bow this is definitely not for you. This movie will... Continue reading
Adult Written byNathan750 October 30, 2020

Where's the review!?

I honestly can't imagine that it's been last friday and there is no age rating, no review, and no advise about this movie... Like c'mon Jeffrey M... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byJack C November 2, 2020

Fine movie for +13.

This movie contains cults, gore and very brief nudity. In many scenes lots of blood is shown while victims are being murdered. Some foul language is used such a... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bybb_0418 November 16, 2020

Im so confused on what this was about...

its not the best honestly, would not recommend. the more you watch the more questions you get, they are not really answerd in the end either, im high key confus... Continue reading

What's the story?

In THE EMPTY MAN, it's 1995, and four hikers explore a valley in Bhutan. One tumbles into a crevice and falls under some kind of spell, resulting in the deaths of his three friends. Years later, in 2018, a group of teens engages in a ritual in which they blow into an empty bottle while on a bridge, thus summoning "The Empty Man." Most of them wind up dead, hanging under the bridge, but one, Amanda (Sasha Frolova), vanishes. Amanda's mother, Nora (Marin Ireland), calls upon her friend, a former cop named James (James Badge Dale), to help. His investigation brings him to a cult called Pontifex, which worships the idea of nothingness ("nothing exists"). Little does he know that the mystery goes even deeper.

Is it any good?

This long, slow-burn sci-fi tale takes its simple "urban legend" idea into ambitious territory, but, by the time it wraps up, it all makes too little sense to justify sitting through it. Directed and co-written by David Prior, The Empty Man startles with its extra-long prologue about the four hikers, spending several days with them, developing character, etc., all to end it with a shock. But once all the pieces of the overall story arc come together, it turns out that all that time wasn't particularly important after all. "Empty" isn't just part of the movie's title.

Prior, who previously worked making short, behind-the-scenes documentaries for feature films like David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, seems to be channeling Fincher on The Empty Man. The movie is, admittedly, beautifully and spookily designed, with fine, unsettling uses of space and sound, especially when James starts poking around in Pontifex's inner sanctum. And its dialogue about reality and nothingness tickles the brain. Overall, the movie definitely rises above cheap quickies like The Bye Bye Man and Slender Man, which tried to cash in on similar "urban legends." But whatever goodwill the movie builds up is largely squandered with a big "that's it?" of an ending.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Empty Man's violence. How intense is it? How did it make you feel? Do you think the story could have been told with less violence?

  • How is sex depicted? What values are imparted?

  • How are drinking and smoking shown? Are they glamorized? Are there consequences? Why does that matter?

  • What's the appeal of scary movies? Why would people sometimes want to be scared?

  • Is there anything to the idea of reality not actually existing? What do you think of this idea?

Movie details

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Themes & Topics

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