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Empathy Inc. (A Movie Review)

Updated: Sep 27, 2023

Empathy Inc.


Starring Zack Robidas, Kathy Searle, Jay Klaitz, Eric Berryman, AJ Cedeno, Charmaine Reedy, Fenton Lawless, Anthony Mangano and Karen Lynn Gorney.

Screenplay by Mark Leidner.

Directed by Yedidya Gorsetman.

Distributed by Dark Star Pictures. 97 minutes. Not Rated.

Empathy Inc. was my favorite film from the 2018 Philadelphia Film Festival. It was tucked away in the final Sunday Filmadelphia series. A quiet, black and white, sci-fi dark horse of a film that had the look and feel of an old Twilight Zone episode, it surprisingly felt old and new at the same time.

The director and cast members were present and eager for the post film Q & A, where the biggest audience question was “When and where can we see this released?” Director Yedidya Gorsetman answered hopefully that they were working to find the answer to that question.

I am happy to say that they found a home at Dark Star Pictures and Empathy Inc. is supposed to be available VOD starting September 24th, 2019.

Joel (played by Zack Robidas) is a businessman looking for the next big thing after his company falls apart. He and his wife Jessica (played by Kathy Searle) are down on their luck, forced to move back in with Jessica’s pushy parents.

Under the gun to successfully move on to his next win, Joel gets a tip on a new technology Extreme Virtual Reality (or XVR) from his long-lost frenemy Nicolaus Veezy (played by Eric Berryman). Joel apparently forgot why friends used to call him “Sleazy.” Veezy encourages him to invest in his company, Empathy Inc. The company is supposed to allow the participant to experience all five senses, allowing high-end couples the opportunity to feel what is like to be underprivileged, thus allowing them to have a greater appreciation for all that they have.

Nicolaus draws Joel into a test run, with the warning from his business partner, tech troll Lester (played by Jay Klaitz) that the code is unstable. Lester straps Joel down into what looks like a sci-fi electric chair, applies a helmet, and gives Joel an injection. When he wakes, Joel is shocked but impressed with his XVR experience and says that he feels more like himself that he has in a long time. Feeling like a better version of himself, Joel stops to give money to a homeless woman on his way home.

But then the story takes a turn, and Joel is accused of being the last person seen with the homeless woman before she is brutally murdered, worse yet, the two were seen in a shouting match and Joel realizes there is something more to XVR that he can’t put his finger on.

The story twists and turns, while continuing to feel like a true B-movie, in the best ways. While the plot starts off slow, it quickly develops into a thrill ride that kept me on the edge of my seat and even caused me (and the audience) to gasp more than once. The score was low key and suspenseful, well matched to the noir feel of the film.

I hope that the film makes its way to a big screen again someday, but until then, find your friend with the biggest screen TV and watch it 9/24/2019 VOD.

Bonnie Paul

Copyright ©2019 All rights reserved. Posted: September 18, 2019.

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