The Void is a tough one to really talk about because there are many things about it that make it good, but it ultimately falls short on being truly great, and it comes from drawbacks that I feel could’ve been easily fixable. It’s a film that starts out as a John Carpenter riff as we join a group of people who are stuck in a hospital while strangers outside are preventing them from leaving and something even more sinister is inside. Think Assault on Precinct 13, but instead of Street Thunder trying to fight their way in, they unleash The Thing inside the building. However, the film begins to take a turn, it begins to craft a world, one beyond our realm of existence, and suddenly what started as a Carpenter riff has morphed into a full blown Lucio Fulci riff ala The Gates of Hell, with sprinkles of Lovecraftian horror.
The film, which is written and directed by Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski, has an ambition to it that I don’t see often in horror, especially independant horror. It’s a film that has a lot of really big, grand ideas in its head, and it makes the most of it within its limited budget. And that goes double for the monster/gore effects, which obviously look like they had a lot of time and care put into them.
It’s too bad though, that I wasn’t able to see the nasty effects because most of it is hidden in shadow. Hiding monsters can be an effective technique, but for a film like this, especially with the influences that it carries on its sleeve, it is a disappointment. The great thing about films like these is that you get to see an SFX team basically show off what they can do, it’s a spectacle of a different kind. You want to see what crazy bloody imagery they’re going to introduce next and how they try to top each of them one right after the other. If I can’t see the effects, then it basically fails at what it wants to do. Perhaps there was budgetary reasons, maybe the SFX wasn’t up to snuff and they used the lighting to hide it. That’s fair, but at the same time, and it bears repeating, these kinds of films are a celebration of what nastiness a group of talented people can craft and bring to life. Even if it isn’t impressive, it will still have a certain charm to it that a computer generated effect would have lacked. There are plenty of Fulci films where the gore effects are obviously fake and outdated, but he still makes sure the audience gets a good, long look at it, with the brightest possible lighting imaginable.
The film also introduces a whole thematic component dealing with loss and the anguish that can come from it, especially when it comes to a parent losing a child. This is the case for several of the characters, each of them dealing it with their own way, some less healthy than others. It’s a neat base for some emotional throughline, but the film doesn’t really go anywhere with it. It feels oddly disconnected to everything else that is happening. It brings to mind The Invitation, an extraordinary horror/thriller from earlier this year that dealt with the exact same theme of loss and how people cope, but does it in a way that is more carefully and naturally woven into the narrative.
Despite those issues, The Void isn’t all bad. In fact, it’s a testament to the skills of Gillespie and Kostanski that the film has a sense of momentum that never lets up. There’s such a propulsive energy and intensity to the film from frame one and it only builds onto it. They understand, not only what it takes to build tension, but also how to sustain it, and how to juggle multiple moving parts within that. They also work very well with their actors. The cast, including, but not limited to Aaron Poole, Kathleen Munroe, Kenneth Welsh, Ellen Wong, and Daniel Fathers are all really great, without a single weak link pulling anyone down.
The Void is really solid horror film, but I really think it had what it took to be great. Nonetheless, it is a totally watchable and fun movie that works when it absolutely needs to. It crafts an interesting world, and each scene builds upon the last with great detail. If anything, it makes me excited to see what’s next for Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski, who both clearly have a lot of love for the horror genre and are able to bring a fresh take on it. It may have been too ambitious, its reach may have exceeded its grasp, but it only makes me admire the film even more. It takes chances, and even if I can’t call it a total success, it’s a moody throwback that I think is worth supporting. 65/100
The Void has no set release date and will likely continue in the festival circuit. You can find more information about screenings on their Facebook page.