Emptiness - Fantasia World Premiere
Director: Onur Karaman
Starring: Stephanie Breton, Anana Rydvald, Julie Trépanier
Written by: Onur Karaman
Produced by: Onur Karaman
Cinematography by: Thomas McNamara
In an isolated country house where time seems to have stood still, Suzanne wonders about her husband's unexplained disappearance.
A haunting, dread-tinged nightmare, 'Emptiness' announces itself from the very first scene and while it's pace might be too slow for some horror fans, it's impossible to not be affected by the subtle fear that it induces.
In Onur Karaman's English language debut, Suzanne (Stephanie Breton) is deeply worried about her missing husband and despite her obvious distress she doesn't receive much comfort from Nicole and Linda, two other woman of similar age who are staying in her house. Nicole is strict and absolute about the rules that Suzanne should be following, one of them is to not go outside, especially towards the barn. She's clearly had a hard life or certainly believes that tiptoeing around problems is not the way to address them. Linda on the other hand is a bit more reassuring. She's soft spoken and has a soothing demeanour. She's the good cop and Nicole is the bad cop.
Both woman have starkly different attitudes but somehow similarly uncanny. They both speak to Suzanne but not to each other. There's evidently a conflict that already exists between the three woman. Something is off here.
Less driven by the narrative and more by its atmospheric, dreamlike visuals and audio soundscapes, 'Emptiness' is fuelled by Suzanne's paranoia and mistrust. Breton's performance is subdued to begin with as Suzanne's confusion slowly pushes the story forward but she really opens up later on in the film, reminiscent of Shelley Duvall from 'The Shining'. Shot in a particular style by Tom McNamara with intriguing angles and heavy on shadows to give the perception that Suzanne is caught in a traumatising dream or at the very least an unwanted, intrusive reality.
'Emptiness' is gorgeous to look at with moments of surrealism creating a fractured, somewhat Lynchian experience. Beautiful black and white aesthetics intertwined with gloomy red images that both serve as flashbacks and maybe even premonitions...? A triumph in indie filmmaking that proves what can be achieved with a little bit of originality and an artistic, imaginative perspective. It's really held together by the noir framing and the intensely effective sound design.
There's one jump scare that I can remember but the entire film is scary because it doesn't rely on such tactics. 'Emptiness' is an ambiguous, disquieting descent into the mind of a woman imprisoned by her own psyche and surrounded by a disturbing darkness.
- Gavin Logan
'Emptiness' received its World Premiere at Fantasia '23 on July 22nd