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REVIEW | The Void

The Void sports some truly great practically made monstrosities, most of the time


Title: The Void
Country: Canada
Year: 2016
Directors: Jeremy Gillespie, Steven Kostanski
Script: Jeremy Gillespie, Steven Kostanski
Starring: Aaron Poole, Kenneth Welsh, Daniel Fathers

As a big fan of creature feature films and horror movies from the 80s in particular, there was no way I was going to miss out on seeing the indie horror gem that is The Void. For the uninitiated, The Void was born out of an Indiegogo project seeking funding for building the monsters for the film, as practical effects aren't exactly cheap to make. It turns out that this effort paid off, as the film sports some truly great abominations, most of the time.

The film comes from writers and directors Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie, who not only worked on movies like Manborg but also on the FX for Pacific Rim and RoboCop (2014). At the Indiegogo page they said the following:

"With this project we are pooling over ten years of experience to conjure up a terrifying film that will combine the aesthetic attitude of modern horror cinema as it emerged in the 1970s with the splatter and sophisticated practical special effects that ruled the creature features of the 1980s and early 90s. But make no mistake, unlike MANBORG and FATHER'S DAY, this time we aren't joking around. We are committed to introducing audiences to a unique horror-mythology."

I'm not entirely certain I would call The Void unique, but it certainly entertained me with a genuine cult movie feeling, along the lines of John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13, Prince of Darkness and of course The Thing. The story begins with Sheriff Daniel Carter coming across a person he believes to be drunk but is actually in need of medical assistance. This leads them to a local hospital and all seems well until the place is surrounded by strange knife-wielding people in white robes, while the people inside the hospital are starting to turn into slimy beasts.

In terms of story, it is pretty much a straight forward horror flick that you would expect. It incorporates Lovecraftian themes and tries to build an ominous atmosphere, besides making sure the characters in the movie are assaulted by tentacled monstrosities. For the first 20 minutes, there is a solid mystery going on as one of the hospital staff is starting to behave eerily strange, before turning into something else after she's dead. However when things are starting to get explained it feels a little too convenient and didn't fully connect the story with the white-robed cultists, at least for me.

Furthermore, the movie could've used a little more of a creep factor, where more time would be given to build atmosphere. There are parts where some of the characters are experiencing hallucinations playing off the madness trope wonderfully and even though less is more it could perhaps have been played up a little more towards the end, for instance.

While the story is by the numbers, the special effects are truly spectacular and really are the selling point. A few of the characters get afflicted by whatever is happening at the hospital and seems to go crazy, while after death reanimate into disturbing creations with quite good attention to detail. There is flesh hanging, along with tentacles protruding from different places, along with good old gore and guts. Even the sound design for the monsters is a very nice touch, as they give off a very unnerving sound that vaguely resembles human anymore.

For some of the monsters, there are certain restrictions in movement, which slightly cracks the illusion, but it's a minor gripe as the majority of monster scenes are very well done, many times kept in shadows and not revealing too much, which makes them feel dangerous and unpredictable. There is actually a couple of monsters that move surprisingly well and that is very impressive. Apart from a terrible green screen effect at the very end, the visual effects are very good as well, sparsely and tastefully used.

I would also very much like to mention the performances in the film and the sheriff character is a great one to start with. Aaron Poole does a fantastic job with the character and seems fittingly enough to channel a young Michael Biehn most of the time. Kathleen Munroe, who's been seen in Supernatural among other things, also does a great job as the hospital nurse, who also happens to be the ex of the sheriff. One could argue that she and especially the intern nurse Kim, played by Ellen Wong, don't get all that much to do, but they are welcome editions nevertheless, along with the other side characters.

My bigger problem with the film is some pacing issues that occur here and there, not in terms of dragging down the flow, but rather in terms of editing. There are times where it cuts a little too quickly, which lessens the impact of a certain scene—such as one where one of the characters is attacked and pulled away by one of the monsters. I would guess that the fast edit there was due to mask any lacking things about the monster itself, but in any case, it felt abrupt.

Another thing that is lacking is the movie's climax, which feels a little weak. It builds towards the opening to the titular void (where I suppose the "Old ones" live), but it is all resolved pretty quickly and dare I say easily. The most unnecessary thing occurs right after that, however, with an additional scene that either should have been shorter or cut out entirely.

For what The Void is, it is a solid horror movie that just isn't great. It obviously didn't have a massive budget, but that rarely shows all that much. The cinematography makes it a pretty neat looking experience and at times it gets really, really cool. What it needed to do was to polish the plot, tighten the editing and amp up the horror a bit and it might've been truly splendid. As it stands it is well worth a watch for horror fans with an appetite for monster movies with nods to the Cthulhu mythos.

Final verdict: 7/10

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