Monsters run amock in an abandoned hospital in the new creature feature from Jeremy Gillsepie and Steven Kostanski
Dirs/Scr: Jeremy Gillespie, Steven Kostanski. Canada, 2016. 90 mins
The Canadian writer-director team of Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski have made amusing short skits (Bio-Cop, an episode of ABCs of Death 2), which homage the video schlock of the 1980s, and worked on the amusing feature-length parody Manborg. They have more mainstream credits, however, in the art and makeup departments of larger projects like Suicide Squad and Pacific Rim. In The Void, they remain in pastiche mode, but tone down the humour to try for serious suspense and Lovecraftian horror - with a pleasing reliance on memorably gruesome physical effects rather than CGI. It offers good shock/uck moments and a nicely unpredictable plot, even if a few crucial relationships are sketchily established, slightly undermining audience investment in the horrors.
Creepy, suspenseful and nerve-wracking
Patrolman Dan Carter (Aaron Poole) comes across wounded lowlife James (Evan Stern) on a woodland road and takes him to a hospital which - like the police station in Assault on Precinct 13 - has only a skeleton staff and a few remaining patients after suffering a mysterious fire. In soap opera style, Dan’s estranged wife Allison (Kathleen Munroe) works at the hospital and they haven’t got over the loss of their unborn child - though Allison’s fatherly mentor, Dr Powell (Kenneth Welsh), sympathises because he is also grieving for a dead daughter, a strand which turns out to be crucial to the plot.
Also around are a pregnant teenager (Grace Munro) and her father (James Millington), an inept intern (Ellen Wong, from Scott Pilgrim vs the World), a gruff trooper (Art Hindle, of The Brood) and some disposables.
No sooner have Dan and James arrived, however, than father-and-son vigilantes (Daniel Fathers and My Byskov) show up intent on killing the kid, who repays the carers by pulling a knife and cutting loose. A horde of white-robed knife-wielding cultists with triangles on their faces surround the isolated hospital, but it turns out that they’re not interested in invading the place, only keeping what’s inside from getting out.
When corpses sprout tentacles or combine into lumbering creatures - evoking the rubber effects of The Thing, Re-Animator and Society - Dan leads an expedition into the burned-out basement, where unsuspected arcane rituals have been conducted.
Character revelations come along at regular intervals, usually with unsuspected folk turning out to be murderously attached to one faction or another (even those robed cultists aren’t aligned the way they seem to be) and dedicated toa ensuring the few surviving normals don’t make it to daybreak alive. Cutaways to a pyramid in an alien landscape evoke a prog rock album cover, ’80s horrors like The Beyond and H.P. Lovecraft’s ‘cosmic horror’ stories.
Fine Canadian character actors Welsh (the big bad of season two of Twin Peaks) and Hindle are a welcome presence, while Wong does a dead-on imitation of Nancy Loomis’s panicky performance in Precinct 13.
Though it evokes extreme filmmakers like Lucio Fulci (The Beyond), Stuart Gordon (From Beyond) and Clive Barker (Hellraiser), The Void offers slightly less perverse monster effects, holding back on the queasy, confrontationally sexualised charge of the video nasty era. It is, however, creepy, suspenseful and nerve-wracking - and marks Gillespie and Kostanski as genre auteurs in the making.
Production company: Cave Painting Pictures
International Sales: AMP International Ltd firstname.lastname@example.org
Producers: Jonathan Bronfman, Casey Walker
Executive producers: Ross M Dinerstein, James Norrie, Jeremy Platt, David Watson
Cinematography: Samy Inayeh
Editor: Cam McLauchlin
Production design: Henry Fong
Music: Blitz//Berlin, Joseph Murray, Menalon Music, Lodewijk Vos
Main cast: Ellen Wong, Aaron Poole, Evan Stern, Kathleen Munroe, Kenneth Walsh