Review: Creature Feature ‘The Void’ a Nostalgic Treat
Seen at the 2017 Shockproof Film Festival
Take one part John Carpenter’s The Thing, one part Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, a dash of Aliens, a pinch of Re-Animator and From Beyond, and you’ve got The Void, a cinematic equivalent of the kind of 1980s sci-fi horror nostalgia offered up by the Netflix series Stranger Things.
Only the nostalgia here leans towards bloody splatter flicks, the kind only accomplished practical effects technicians can create.
Here, those technicians are co-writers and co-directors Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski, who previously collaborated on production company’ Astron 6’s Manborg and Father’s Day. They also did effects work on Hollywood features like Total Recall and the Oscar-winning (don’t it feel good to say that) Suicide Squad.
In The Void, police officer Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole) comes across a barely-conscious junkie (Evan Stern) on the side of a rural road in the middle of the night. He brings him to the local hospital, an underpopulated locale recovering from a fire that boasts only a handful of doctors including Daniel’s wife Allison (Kathleen Munroe), head surgeon Richard (Kenneth Walsh, a standout) and intern Kim (Ellen Wong).
Soon, there’s a problem. Make that multiple problems. Within the film’s first act, there’s cannabalism, re-animated corpses, a bloated monster, and possibly some kind of portal to another dimension within the hospital grounds.
Oh, and a mysterious cult of robed Illuminati-like figures with tactical knives keeping the protagonists pinned inside the building.
It’s the old Rio Bravo/Assault on Precinct 13 setup, but here the dozens of faceless robed figures don’t seem to attack the characters unless they wander outside. Still, there’s that pesky monster inside the building to deal with. Not to mention a young woman who’s about to give birth. And the fact that that characters can’t trust each other, given that some of them have already been monsterfied.
Carpenter’s classic The Thing is clearly a huge influence here, from the gooey practical f/x work to the plot mechanics. The monster(s) can be anyone, and the characters never know who they can really trust.
That monster is a hulking mass of flesh and viscera, gooey and dangly with a vaguely human face and tentacles that shot out to grab victims. It moves slow, and goes down after enough shotgun blasts and axe chops. But is it truly dead?
While slow to start, once the plot mechanics are in place The Void never lets up for a second. The cast is constantly subject to multiple threats, and the directors never allow us to catch our breath.
The film never explains what’s going on with the cult and the monsters and the otherworldly stuff, which may not sit well with some viewers. But that’s a good thing. This kind of horror is more effective when we don’t know the rules of the game, and The Void is an intense and terrifying ride.