Alfredo Abaunza’s All is Empty
Reviewed by P.J. Griffin
I’ve been fortunate enough to check out several of Alfredo Abaunza’s short films and written about a few of them. I got hooked with his impressive cannibalism-centered project Family and then wrote about his film Nothing But Ants. Both showed talent and skill but were quite different from one another. Abaunza is a versatile filmmaker and I’m never sure what to expect when I start a new film of his. His latest project, All is Emtpy, came under my radar and so I checked it out. Did it stack up to the quality I’ve come to expect from this particular writer/director? Absolutely. Allow me to explain why.
All is Empty centers around Travis (Norbert Velez Jr.), a young man who is about to enter a world of confusion and terror. When we meet Travis he is clearly in a bad way and trying to explain himself and the situation he has found himself in to unseen doctors. What follows quickly gets going into the erratic and deeply affected state of mind Travis has to deal with. After our protagonist meets up with a young woman from his life, things spiral out of control and the viewer discovers that things aren’t always what they seem.
Especially with a short film, it’s important for me not to go into too much detail and spoil anything. This film deserves to be experienced with as little information possible to get the full effect so I’ll just vaguely go over what I feel works. First off, I was impressed with how the film simultaneously grabs the viewer right away, but then allows itself to stew. The project isn’t a bombardment of images nor is it a completely slow burn. Both concepts can work quite well with specific works and for this one I feel the blending of the two was a good call.
It was all shot well, pairing the different tones that shift throughout. The mixture of the visceral and more slow paced are complimented by the music and the sound. Atmosphere is key and All is Empty realizes this while taking full advantage of the various settings and landscapes. I appreciate when mood is conveyed honestly, no matter of the genre or realistic nature of the story itself. I can say with certainty that the beats all hit their mark for me and I was with the project the whole way. I guessed at the right times, I discovered at the right times, I was surprised at the right times.
It’s clear that everyone involved was on board for what the film entailed right from the start and it’s always nice to see such enthusiasm. It keeps a dreary project fun while the material keeps it all genuine. The film is just spontaneous enough to be entertaining without being confusing. This is a tough thing to accomplish but at no point did I feel lost. I felt the baffled nature of the main character but it always felt like part of the process. I’ve loved many an artsy horror film but with such a story-driven project, it was smart how it was done.
All in all, I was completely satisfied with All is Empty. I found it to be an absorbing project that is best to just delve into and just see what happens. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next for Alfredo Abaunza, as I’ve been given more than enough reason to trust in whatever he has in store.