Nostalgia can be a rather powerful thing. It can instantly send us back to a gentler, more rosy-colored time of our youth. Unfortunately it also has the ability to cloud and distort one’s judgement. A person’s love for certain properties may lead them to embrace something new, that shares the similar qualities. At the same time, it can lead one to feel as if a new film, book or tv show is derivative. Strangely enough, the new horror film The Void, finds it self precariously straddling that very divide.
Directors Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski attempt to move away from their usual work under Astron-6, but a little more of that zany energy would have gone a long way. Horror doesn’t necessarily demand it, but is often improved by a dose of levity. They aren’t taking the easy route though, as their film hearkens back to a time where monsters reigned supreme. More over, they don’t want to skimp or water-down their effort, making sure 80-90% of what appears on the screen is practically accomplished.
Events kick off as small town cop Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole), finds a man covered in blood -some his, some not his- wandering in the middle of a street. He takes the stranger to the nearest hospital, which just so happens to be in the process of closing. Among the skeletal crew are the chief doctor Richard Powell (genre staple Kenneth Welsh) and Carter’s estranged wife, Allison (Kathleen Munroe). It’s a smart conceit, setting up a reason for the hospital’s dilapidation and immediately calls to mind Assault on Precinct 13. The first of many John Carpenter call outs.
2 gun-toting men show up at the hospital as well, demanding that the man Carter found be turned over. Seemingly unhinged, the men attempt to warn everyone that something is on its way there and expediency would be appreciated. As if on cue, from the nearby woods, hooded figures, shrouded in white, start to emerge. From here on out, things begin to take a turn for the decidedly weird. With the first torrent of blood, we get a sense of what tricks Gillespe & Kostanski may have up their sleeves. Gore, goop, ooze, flesh and various other items get thrown across the screen with reckless abandon.
Calling The Void anything other than a “creature feature” would be both silly and too lofty. Viewed through that prism and that alone, it is moderately successful. The desgins on display are truly horrific, creative abominations. That they’re done practically, now in the digital age, should be cause for celebration enough.
At the same time, wallowing in nostalgia at some point starts to become a hindrance. The Void doesn’t have a lot to fall back on, resting on the backs of what came before. The script specifically is a bit weak and muddied. There’s a denseness to the proceeding that seems difficult to grasp. A move like this could be respectable if the director’s gave any indication this was their intention. Instead, the cobbled together and half-warmed over plot just gets short shrift. None of which should come as much of a surprise, since this too was a staple of many 80’s flicks that are emulated here.
It does though, bring up a point for what exactly is trying accomplished? Knowing that Gillespe and Kostanski want to craft more serious features, this comes across as them merely teeing up. After all, a solid genre film can go a long way to building your base. While this film was made partially by funds secured through a successful indiegogo campaign, it’s not a viable formula for a long or thriving career. Neither is making a film which reminds the audience of other better films they’ve seen in the past. Anyone familiar with the works of Lucio Fulci, Clive Barker, John Carpenter and Stuart Gordon are sure to feel either right at home or like they’re suffering bouts of deja vu.
The Void does a commendable job as a golrified vfx reel. It is dripping with atmosphere, dread and goop. Seriously, the goop can not be downplayed in the least. All other facets of the film sadly get left by the wayside. There’s no arguing that the film won’t find a home, as it’s bound to be deemed a “cult classic” the moment it gets released.
What it says overall is the interesting discussion. Can a film exist on its own, if it’s simply made up of elements from other works? Isn’t that partially what most films already are, steeped in equal parts nostalgia and things that worked before? If so, then why does this movie feel so derivative? In the end, maybe The Void is a secret success for starting this conversation. Regardless of the outcome, this won’t be the last anyone hears of Gillespie & Kostanski. They feel as if they’re on the verge of something big.