Empress of Darkness

Empress of Darkness
Still impressive that Canadian-born, Japanese-based animator Nick DiLiberto drew all the frames himself, though some of the novelty has worn off with this sophomore effort.

Empress of Darkness

Release Date: May 10, 2023
Runtime: 01:08
An Empress Slayed and a world forever cursed to Darkness. Follow Alpha as he is chased and ruthlessly hunted down by Graxus’s Evil Horde who will stop at nothing until his existence is stomped out from this world.

A lone warrior goes on a quest to save the world from darkness in Empress of Darkness. Once, there was a Kingdom of Light with an Empress whose powers controlled the cosmos. However, she was slain, and Lord Graxus and his Evil Horde plunged the world into darkness. However, a lone follower, Alpha, escapes from a ritual sacrifice and begins the perilous journey to the Empress' kingdom to break the curse and restore light to the world.


Empress of Darkness is the sophomore feature film from writer and director and his one-person production company Gorgon Pictures. Like his 2016 debut feature Nova Seed, all the aspects of production were performed by DiLiberto over four years, including drawing over 60,000 frames himself and voicing most of the characters, with some additional voice work done by . Set to a pulsating Electronic Synth Score by Stephen Verrall, the plot takes the form of an extended chase, as the protagonist Alpha races to break the curse on the Kingdom of Life, all while the Evil Horde is on his tail.

My Thoughts on Empress of Darkness

When I saw his debut Nova Seed on the 2016 festival circuit, I admit that I was quite impressed that Canadian-born, Japanese-based animator Nick DiLiberto could single-handedly produce a hand-drawn feature film hearkened back to adult-oriented films from the 1980s like Heavy Metal. In that regard, I still think Empress of Darkness is a technical feat. However, I must admit that I found the film's story relatively basic, especially as it foregoes most spoken dialogue in favour of extended chase sequences reminiscent of Mad Max: Fury Road and some incredibly gory fight scenes.

The lack of dialogue in Empress of Darkness, save for a few phrases here and there, is compensated by the score by Stephen Verrall, who was also the composer for Nova Seed, filled with many pulsated synthesizers. In this way, it is more the music that drives the plot of Empress of Darkness, as members of the evil horde of Lord Graxus chase after Alpha, as the latter tries to make it to the Kingdom of Light.

I wouldn't go as far to call Empress of Darkness a sophomore slump for Nick DiLiberto and in some ways the film is an improvement in terms of its animation. However, I still admit that some of the novelty that came from watching Nova Seed with the knowledge that it was all animated by one person has now worn off. However, Empress of Darkness is still a film worth checking out for fans of throwback animation aimed towards a more mature audience.

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Trailer for Empress of Darkness

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
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