Sheriff Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole) is dozing by the side of the road in his patrol car one evening when a seriously injured and distressed man comes crawling out of nearby woods and collapses in the road. Soon enough, Carter and the injured man are en route to the understaffed and soon-to-be-closed nearby hospital at which his estranged wife, Alison (Kathleen Munroe), works. After initial examinations of the patient are carried out, and a staff nurse mysteriously decides to perform a little impromptu surgery on another patient before indulging in a bit of self immolation, the hospital is besieged by hooded figures intent on keeping Carter and the rest of the frightened staff and patients inside. And that’s when shit starts to get really weird…
Ok, first thing’s first; The Void is a lot less like an homage to John Carpenter than has been previously reported. Yes, I’d be remiss if I were to not point out that The Void contains more than a few obvious allusions to Carpenter classics like Assault on Precinct 13, Prince of Darkness, and The Thing — but, if it is indeed equal parts those aforementioned movies, it also contains more than a dash of Hellraiser (minus the discomforting sexual baggage), In the Mouth of Madness, and even Event Horizon. Where The Void fails to replicate the strength of those tales though is in it’s inability to be just that little bit more transparent with its intentions.
The Void can be split into two very distinct parts, with one period being noticeably better in quality from the next; “BB”- Before Basement, and “AD”- After Basement. The first act (BB) is, to not put too fine a point on it, garbage, and this is a terrible shame. For all the good will that The Void manages to generate in its superior and highly effective second and third acts (AB), it’s somewhat dashed by the incredibly unsympathetic and poorly realized characters, clumsy and ineffectual dialogue, ponderous pacing, and poor attention to its own continuity. It really should go without saying that the first act of a horror movie, or, indeed, any movie for that matter, is crucial to the audience’s emotional investment. In the case of horror, without that investment, there’s no fear, and where there’s no fear, there’s no horror. This is ultimately, and disappointingly, The Void’s major stumbling block.
However, the final two thirds of the movie are, as previously mentioned, superior. As soon as the action moves to the burnt out remnants of the hospital’s basement, there are some excellent and genuinely unsettling scares. Couple this with a few twisted and inhuman monsters, gooey and unpleasant deaths, tentacles, face carving, eye gouging — it’s a real mess. Much has already been said of the impressive practical FX work, and rightly so. There’s a smattering of CGI at play, but it is used sparingly and only to add that extra layer of gloss to otherwise impeccable set-pieces.
Sadly, the conclusion (which is the primary victim of the movie’s failure to connect the dots) left me cold. This is ostensibly because it doesn’t seem to even have a conclusion, and that smacks of head scratching and pencil chewing at the writer’s table to me.
Despite this, the third act does however throw up the most interesting questions, and fully embraces its now firmly established occult roots in the process. It makes for very compelling viewing as the overwhelming sense of cosmic dread and unavoidable finality dawns with increasing speed upon you…
…but what the shit does it all mean? What exactly is the point? As the product of two obviously very talented artists (directors Gillespie and Kostanski have done extensive graphic design and make-up respectively on such productions as Suicide Squad, Crimson Peak, and the gorgeous, and deeply missed, Hannibal TV series, as well as being two parts of Cult Canadian film making group Astron-6), is The Void really nothing more than a feature length demonstration of their ability to craft graphic and disturbing images, or is there something more sincere here?
Deep at the heart of this movie, amidst all the tentacles and gross-out shots, is a slightly more sensitive side. Early on in the proceedings, we discover that Alison and Carter are suffering the recent loss of their unborn child, while resident Doctor Richard Powell (Kenneth Welsh), a long standing friend of the Carter family, is still mourning the loss of his daughter from several years before. In its gentler moments, The Void deals with the exploration of how we cope with loss, and the sometimes destructive lengths to which we are prepared to go to heal that loss. But for all the questions and philosophical musings that the movie posits, it leaves much unanswered, and this is intensely frustrating and not a little suspicious. The audience is left with no clear reason for having spent 90 minutes in the company of the film or its characters, and none the wiser as to what it’s really trying to articulate.
Even more disappointing is the soundtrack. As suitably eerie as it is, one can’t help but think that on the one hand that it’s rather laudable that when aping John Carpenter, Gillespie and Kostanski haven’t gone the whole hog and demanded a Carpenter-esque synth masterpiece to compliment it. On the other hand, the lack there of a Carpenter-esque synth masterpiece feels a little disingenuous. In for a penny, in for a pound.
Is The Void destined to become a cult classic? I’d have to say no, but it’s not without it’s strengths. Are the boys from Astron-6 auteurs in the making? I’m not so sure about that either, but there’s certainly some small sparks of potential to be found amidst the tentacles.