The Void joins a short but increasingly busy queue of nostalgia-driven indie horror movies waiting for their turn in the spotlight. While it delivers a largely absorbing ride, Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski’s hybrid stumbles plenty of times along the way.
Opening with a fleeing man and woman and a pair of, what the viewer must assume are, lunatics hunting them down, The Void sets its tone early on, one of intrigue and unflinching brutality. It’s at its best when it is teasingly opening up the curtain, unwilling to fully thrust them open and show what it’s all about. Unfortunately, as the movie unfolds it becomes apparent that it’s held up by too many tropes without providing enough of its own originality, interesting practical effects aside.
After his partner becomes a shish kebab, the surviving man comes across police officer Daniel (Aaron Poole), the movie’s protagonist. Sardonic and world weary, Aaron Poole’s character doesn’t fit the hero mould, appearing unlikeable from his very first scene. With a Tim Roth vibe to him, however, Poole eases into the role the deeper into this Lovecraftian nightmare we go. I hadn’t seen anything of his work before The Void, so he’s one to keep tabs on – there’s a strange and unconventional magnetism to the guy that should see him go far.
Daniel takes the (seemingly) bloodied man to the local hospital, which just so happens to be where his estranged wife is working. Before the two can settle into the well-worn dynamic of separated-couple-who-still-love-each-other that we’ve seen plenty of times before (see: 30 Days of Night, a film this shares some DNA with), The Void suddenly cranks it up by a thousand. Barely any time after we’ve been introduced to the film’s other players or even enough to establish the location, all hell breaks loose. It rushes too quickly to become a creature feature (and other things later) that it sacrifices simple storytelling.
But that’s not what The Void is about. It’s about the spectacle, the amount of viscera and twisted visions that can be thrown at the viewer. And it works. I struggled to tear myself away from the horrors on-screen, which never did enough to scare, but worked overtime to unsettle the stomach. This might be the most visually uncompromising horror movie since 1997’s Event Horizon.
It’s shot exquisitely, far beyond its means – whatever Gillespie and Kostanski did to squeeze every Canadian cent out of the budget needs to be relayed to the world’s chancellors. Even though it was produced on a miniscule amount of money, it looks every inch the modern cult classic it strives to be and may end up one day being. Every shot oozes character and malice, which is to say nothing of the practical effects on display.
Call them homages or whatever you like, but contemporary horror is doing its best to bring back the man inside the monster. Something was lost when creature-driven horrors started leaning on CGI more than ingenuity (just look at the difference between the two The Thing remakes, for instance). It’s showcased well in The Void, a hellish cavalcade of mutants and “demons” that the likes of Carpenter would give an approving nod to. This is a callback to the horrors of movies gone by, which unfortunately emanates throughout the movie as a whole, not just in the design department.
The Void is a movie that feels like a million other movies, its structure supported by the inspirations of much more successful and accomplished features. It has Assault on Precinct 13, The Mist, The Thing and a few others to thank for its composition, which makes some of its marketing (“unlike anything you’ve seen before”) feel a bit misleading.
Still, it’s an often riveting descent into darkness that will probably leave an impression on you on the other side. It’s worth hunting down on VOD, just don’t let its hyperbolic praise from some outlets make you put The Void on a pedestal – you’ll likely come out disappointed.
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Aesthetically assaulting in the best ways, The Void is also devoid enough of its own ideas to make it a hard sell for some.
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