Tuesday, May 9, 2017

In short: The Void (2016)

On a slow night, deputy Sheriff Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole) picks up a hurt and bloody man from the side of the road. The closest emergency room is run by a skeleton crew in a hospital that’s nearly abandoned after a fire some time ago. As luck will have it, Daniel’s separated – they lost a child - wife Allison (Kathleen Munroe) is working there this night. These personal problems won’t be the worst thing on Daniel’s mind for long, though, for soon enough he and the handful of other characters in the emergency room, will have to cope with much worse things. A gang of white-robed knife-wielding cultists surrounding the hospital not letting anyone leave or make contact with the outside world will turn out to be the least of their troubles.

I am not at all surprised that Astron-6’s Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski made quite a film in their first “serious” outing (and without the Astron-6 moniker), seeing as their more parodic work demonstrated not just surface knowledge of genre cinema as a whole but what looks like a lot of deep understanding, enthusiasm and talent, certainly all things they demonstrate here in great amounts.

After hearing The Void described as a Lovecraftian film, or at least one of cosmic horror, I did expect a much slower film as the one I got. Properly defined, The Void is cosmic horror and Lovecraft filtered through Stuart Gordon, John Carpenter, Lucio Fulci and body horror, which means its psychologically grounded cosmicism finds a dancing partner in huge amounts of practical effects that suggest a diet of the aforementioned directors and the best of the Silent Hill franchise. The monsters and the effects get going much faster than I had expected, too. Fifteen minutes in, and things become gooey and grotesque and never stop for long from then on out, very much to my satisfaction.

The pace does get – rather appropriately – weird after some time of the directors playing with something of an inverted siege scenario (nobody seems to want to get in to hurt the characters, they’re just not allowed to leave because of something locked in with them). Once parts of the cast make their way into a cellar that acts as a place where the layers between our reality and something much grimmer have grown thin through abuse, things turn ever more dream-like, visions and hallucinations breaking the until then classically plotted movie’s timing until it turns strange. At first, I was a bit displeased by how this approach seemed to throw the film out of whack, further thought and exposure convinced me it is actually a rather brilliant way to let the audience share into some of the psychological effects of the characters’ contact with the Cosmically Weird, while providing even more opportunity for these fine effects.

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