Horrortoberfest ’20 Day 18 – Empathy, Inc. (2019)

I was hoping that I would be able to make up for yesterday’s film being not particularly focused on technology by making sure the one I watched this time would be for sure about it. The unfortunate side of that is that while I did, indeed, manage to get a movie that more closely aligns with the Tech Week theme; this movie isn’t particularly all that much a horror film as it is a psychological thriller. Can’t win them all, though.

Joel is riding high as the company he works for is primed to take but, whoopsy daisy, the product is a sham and he ends up taking the fall for it. Disgraced and unable to work in Silicon Valley anymore, he moves back east with his wife to live with her folks. Down on his luck and feeling terrible, he comes across an old friend that lets him know that he can get in on the ground floor of an amazing new technology, XVR. XVR is a virtual reality experience unlike any other where you can experience what it’s like to be someone truly down on their luck in a fully immersive experience. However, things aren’t quite as they seem and things get kinda messy from there.

The film does a good job of really hiding exactly what’s happening for the first bit and leaving you wondering exactly what is going on with this tech. Is it real? Is Joel imagining things or having some kind of mental break? When the full truth of things is revealed it then goes full nonsense mode where it becomes less and less like a horror movie and more and more like a crime thriller with mistaken identities, stand-offs, blackmail, and all sorts of other goodies. As far as just being fun to watch, it definitely delivers an interesting story.

As mentioned, it isn’t really horror, though. If you go in expecting scares or butt-clenching tension, you will be let down. I do appreciate that the tech of Empathy, Inc is initially pitched as being used to put yourself in someone else’s shoes that has it much worse than you so you can truly understand the good things in your life. Then, throughout the course of the film, we just see Joel get fucked over again and again to the point where the movie is pretty much trying to put you in the shoes of someone that has it really rough.

With a black and white presentation, you get the same stark contrasts that the XVR premise is trying to illicit. While I’m probably knocking a little off just because of the horror false advertising, I’m still giving this high marks for being a serious thriller with just enough goofiness to the premise and people that it remains fun to watch.|

Rating: 4 out of 5

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