Director: Jeremy Gillespie, Steven Kostanski
Cast: Aaron Poole, Kathleen Munroe, Ellen Wong, Kenneth Welsh
Runtime: 1 hr 31 mins
Rating: M18 (Violence and Gore)
Released By: Shaw
Opening Day: 13 April 2017
Synopsis: When police officer Carter discovers a blood-soaked man limping down a deserted road, he rushes him to a local hospital with a bare bones, night shift staff. As cloaked, cult-like figures surround the building, the patients and staff inside start to turn ravenously insane. Trying to protect the survivors, Carter leads them into the depths of the hospital where they discover a gateway to immense evil.
Fans of John Carpenter, Clive Barker and Stuart Gordon rejoice – the low-budget splat-flick ‘The Void’ from first-time feature directors Jeremy Gillespie and Steve Kostanski is a glorious throwback to the days of ‘Halloween 2’, ‘Hellraiser’ and ‘The Thing’. Gleefully going off the rails for their solo venture outside of the Canadian genre filmmaking collective Astron-6, both unabashed fans of Reagan-era blood, slash and goo have assembled killer cults, tentacled monsters, shotgun-toting psychos and otherworldly demons for a 1980s-reminiscent old-school horror that isn’t afraid to go absolutely bonkers, even if all of that doesn’t quite make sense being in the same movie at the same time.
Although it begins with a grisly murder at a dilapidated farm house, most of the action unfolds at the local county hospital, where small-town sheriff Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole) has brought a wounded man (Evan Stern) he sees stumbling out of the woods while on beat duty. Unbeknownst to Daniel, that man had shortly before escaped the scene of the first crime and is now hunted by a shotgun- and gasoline-wielding father-son team (Daniel Fathers and Mik Byskov) who will eventually make their way to the hospital. Meanwhile at the facility, Daniel is joined by his estranged wife cum resident nurse Allison (Kathleen Munroe), a pregnant teenager (Grace Munro) accompanied by her grandfather (James Millington), a disgruntled nurse intern (Ellen Wong), and last but not least, the veteran Dr Powell on duty (Kenneth Walsh).
An inexplicable act of violence by one of the nurses, who stabs a patient in the eye before cutting off her own face, is just the start of the night’s troubles for the ragtag group. We’re not talking about the father-son team; oh no, as it turns out, they are one of the good guys. We’re referring instead to the hordes of people surrounding the hospital, dressed in white hooded capes with black triangles where their faces should be and armed with daggers which they have no qualms using on anyone trying to leave. We’re referring as well to the dead people within the hospital who transform into writhing monsters and feed on the living. And yet, both are just harbingers of an even greater horror to come, sprung from the titular abyss of time and space to manifest on our dimension.
Turns out the setting is no coincidence – down in the burned-out basement, Dan will discover grisly evidence of arcane rituals being carried out in secret by no less than Dr Powell, which aim to open a doorway that will allow an ancient evil bringing the promise of eternal death to bring its brand of damnation into our world. It’s a lot to take in, and arguably Gillispie and Kostanski (who also wrote the script together) don’t seem to be trying very hard to string all of these disparate horror elements together into a coherent whole; rather, they seem more intent to create enough memorable sequences drawn from 1980s genre cinema to please fans of the latter.
On that count, it’s hard to argue that they have not succeeded. Right from the beginning to its Lucio Fulci-inspired finale, there is much to embrace about the use of monstrous gore, practical FX and immersive sets to create the feeling of cosmic dread, which is also testament to the filmmakers’ experience in Hollywood as art directors. There’s no denying that the script is clunky at parts, the characters not quite fully sketched and the acting somewhat iffy, but equally, it is to their credit that their movie remains a transfixing watch from start to finish. More significantly, even when it does go full blown crazy, these moments are executed deftly enough that you’ll never get the feeling they have gone overboard simply for the sake of shlock.
If it isn’t yet apparent, ‘The Void’ will probably be off-putting for those who like their horror elegant and tasteful. There is no such thing as subtlety here – not when you have icktastic monsters piercing their tentacles right through a person’s chest or corpses piercing their own heads through a metal rod in the wall – but ‘The Void’ is precisely comfort food for those who love their horror with gore, gross-out creatures and phantom zone-like multiverses. Ultimately, how much you enjoy ‘The Void’ will depend on how much you think you’ll appreciate a return trip to the 1980s, but if you’re in the mood for classic Carpenter, Barker and Gordon-type Lovecraftian horror, then we guarantee you’ll relish this journey into ‘The Void’.
(Made for fans of 1980s horror, this low-budget splat-flick with killer cults, tentacled monsters, shotgun-toting psychos and otherworldly demons gleefully goes off the rails for a glorious throwback to the days of John Carpenter, Clive Barker and Stuart Gordon)
Review by Gabriel Chong