Review: The Void (2017)

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The Void

Directed by Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski

From the Great White North enclave known as Astron-6 (“Manborg,” “Father’s Day”) and an extremely successful IndieGoGo campaign is born a horror that is equal parts homage and homegrown madness and while it does not reach the mountains of said mania, it ascends higher than most of its genre compatriots.

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The audience is dropped in the deep end as we witness a savage murder with the sole survivor stumbling into the hands and cruiser of a worn down small town sheriff who delivers the damaged man to an equally fading facility, a local hospital that harbors dark secrets. Any additional plot discussion is unnecessary as this is a feast for the senses, unencumbered by standard screenwriting constraints (though easy enough to follow) and enveloped in a mystery that while quickly apparent, works remarkably well in building tension and the big reveal.

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Influences are worn on sleeve of the writer/directors unholy robes with “Hellraiser,” “The Thing” and “Re-Animator” being clearly evident. Like those films. “The Void” is heavy on the monsters (both human and otherworldly) and while the latter do not classify as the stars of a traditional creature feature here, there is enough unearthly eye candy and spectacular splatter to make any monster maniac swoon and gorehound gush and blush blood red. CGI is minimal and practical effects are plentiful and look incredible with makeshift monsters and DIY demons haunting the hospital, itself a masterpiece of excellent set design, amplified by a masterful score and chilling sound effects, cold and calculated. And what else can be said for the legion of enshrouded minions, whose appearance is so minimal but fear maximized – absolutely brilliant.

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The primary disappointment in my experience was despite avoiding trailers and most promotional materials, the bevy of art online and film festival quotes highlighted the Lovecraftian elements, an eldritch essence that while present simply could not live up to the hype. While the Empire efforts of the 1980s remain the pinnacle of the man that is Providence, many short and full length features have done a fine job with adapting the authors work or simply being influenced by them. “The Void” has hints of HPL and carries the hallmarks of the weird tale, the creative team here does not invoke “pure cosmic dread” as the posters promised. Perhaps if they had stuck with the Astron-6 formula of over the top hilarity that pairs well with brutal horror it may have worked better (not unlike the aforementioned Stuart Gordon output) but as is, the dedication is not to atmosphere, action or the terror that Lovecraft himself believed to be the very focus of fear. As this is an original story and not a modern update of the early 20th century works of Howard Phillips, a great deal more leeway exists but my hopes were banked on this and while there was some sustenance, satiety was sometimes lacking, severely in a few spots.  Not to sound like a hentai superfan but more tentacles makes everything better.

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It is well documented that I have a love for unhappy or better put, ambiguous endings and “The Void” definitely delivers. Without any spoilers, the overall atmospheric storyline has the barebones style evoking the heyday of Italian horror and overall this benefits the chaotic and confusing environment we are cast into with the characters. Nowhere is this more evident than in the conclusion of the film that is anything but that and has an overwhelming spirit of the Lucio Fulci masterpiece “The Beyond.”

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Imperfect but enjoyable, imitation heavy but highly original in its own right, “The Void” will likely require additional voyages to attain a more in depth review, especially as my expectations were so lofty. “The Void” was my most anticipated independent film for 2017 and while it is certainly not a letdown, if you are equally interested then it’s best to keep a fair perspective. The stars were simply not right for “The Void” but they still shine just as bright.

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