The Void (2016)

As a 15 year old kid trapped in a 40 year old man’s body, you can correctly assume that I’m a child of the 1980’s. Being the movie nerd that I am, I have a certain attachment to flicks from that time period, one of the Golden Era’s of Hollywood, and there’s something about the horror flicks of the time that’s still particularly alluring. In particular, the films of dudes like Sean Cunningham (‘Friday the 13th’), Wes Craven (‘A Nightmare of Elm Street’), Tobe Hooper (‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’) and, of course, John Carpenter (‘The Thing’). Carpenter, in particular, stands out, as the majority of his filmography is amazing and influential stuff. Having said that, It’s clear that the filmmakers behind this crowd-funded ‘love letter’ felt the same way.
I heard quiet rumblings about this film around the beginning of last year (if memory serves), and most of what I recall hearing was surprisingly positive. I don’t remember specific details that were being thrown around, but what stood out in the few reviews that I read was that if you’re a fan of blood-spattered, 80’s style ‘grindhouse’ horror flicks that embrace the use of practical effects and liberal application of ‘political correctness’, then this was a movie for you…er…me. I was intrigued and mentally noted it on my Must See list. The shitty thing was…I couldn’t find it! It received a tiny release that came and went…and then never showed up on any of the streaming services that my girlfriend and I use. A buddy of mine caught up with it and, knowing I loved the types of flicks that inspired ‘The Void’, recommended I check it out. Knowing I wasn’t able to find it through any legal channels that I had available, he arranged to book-mark it via his own means, for an eventual viewing at his pad…which was last night.
‘The Void’ opens with a couple of junkies fleeing in terror from a darkened farm, pursued by a mysterious pair of armed and dangerous fellas. The girl is taken down with a shotgun blast to the back and then, with cold and gruesome directness, is burned alive. We don’t know why…yet. The male keeps running. Eventually he stumbles across bored Sheriff’s Deputy ‘Carter’ (Aaron Poole) who rushes him to the local ER for treatment. While trying to figure out what’s going on, ‘Carter’ and a handful of other people at the near-deserted hospital (including the two bastards who murdered the girl earlier) realize that their isolated location is under siege by a sinister group of robe-wearing nut-jobs, who seem intent of either getting in and killing them, or preventing them from escaping so that the dangerous entity also inside with them, can kill them instead. It becomes a deadly, blood-drenched fight for survival.
Happily, I got what I hoped for out of ‘The Void’. It really is a ‘love letter’ to horror flicks of the 1980’s and I feel that it accomplished what it set out to do. That being said, it’s evident that the filmmakers (and everyone else) threw in their all to getting this movie made and they clearly strove to elevate the material as high as they could. This could’ve turned out to be nothing more than some terrible, schlocky C-Budget rip-off instead of the surprisingly tight and technically-competent film they ended up with. There’s a lot of good going on in this one’s one hour, thirty minute run-time.
First off, an homage of this type NEEDS to get the atmosphere correct. There’s a certain ‘feel’ to horror flicks of the period that this movie nailed almost to perfection. Many of the familiar visual tropes were on hand, like the randomly flickering lights in moments of tension, or the smokey ‘atmosphere’ that helped paint the background in light, or the creepy, silent appearances of the antagonists, all supported by a bevy of creepy sounds and music (loved the synth!). Story-wise, they covered their bases too, with various character/ caricatures in a limited location that all contributed in their own ways. In some respects, they actually gave a bit more character than they probably needed to, given to type of story that it is, but hey…that’s NOT a complaint. The direction some of the characters were taken, or went, was kinda refreshing too, which contributed to keeping the simple story interesting the whole way through.
Technically, they did a damn fine job with what they had. The location was cool and they made the most out of the deserted school somewhere in Ontario (I think) that they converted into the soon-to-close hospital. On a side note, the location and how it was used reminded me of the criminally-overlooked 2005 reboot of John Carpenter’s 1976 flick, ‘Assault on Precinct 13’, where a wacky mix of characters are trapped in an old building while assailants outside strive to oust them. Back to the flick, I really liked the use of shadow and lighting they went with, with whole sequences lit in either hectic strobe and or the red glow of flares (another common prop in flicks like this). It again showed that the filmmakers had paid attention to how the atmosphere’s of the ole classics were accomplished.
The cast was just fine. Few of them were familiar to me but, as I remarked as we watched it, that can actually help a film because, if directed properly, the No Name actors have the chance to ‘become’ the characters, thus pulling us into the story even further.
If I had to dredge a complaint out, the one thing that does come to mind was the number of times I caught myself noticing the ‘crispness’ of them shooting the movie in digital. Given their meager budget, digital just makes sense, but if they’d had the means, to REALLY give it that 80’s ‘grindhouse’ feel, they would’ve shot 35mm or even 16mm, to give the flick that rough film grain ‘sheen’ that movies of the time charmingly possess.
All in all, I had a good time with ‘The Void’ and I understand and support the muted praise that it’s received. I genuinely hope it opened the door for writer / directors Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski, and presented them with some larger projects to tackle. I think both these guys showed they have the talent and the love for the medium of film, especially that of the more exploitative, nostalgia-flavored nature. The story is simple, the characters are (mostly) effective, the horror effects are largely practical and well-done, and the gore is…well…gory, on top of presenting some genuinely creepy moments that do get under the skin. The pacing of the story is even and not once was I bored. The tension is well-crafted and the run-time is perfect. Even though I eventually got over it, I did find the use of ‘digital’ a wee bit distracting, but again…I got over it. If you’re a fan of any of those classic genre directors I noted at the beginning of the review, especially Carpenter, then this flick is right up your alley. I was definitely reminded of ‘The Thing’ (1982), ‘Prince of Darkness’ (1987) and ‘In the Mouth of Madness’ (1994), among others by Mr. Carpenter. I was also acutely reminded of Lucio Fulci’s gruesome film ‘The Beyond’ (1981), another in which a portal to hell opens below a building and doomed humans must fight to defeat what comes through. If any of these titles work for you (or, since it’s a DIRECT result of this new 80’s resurgence, Netflix’ ‘Stranger Things’)…then rest assured that ‘The Void’ will fit in nicely with your tastes. Extra points if you’re also a fan of the horror fiction of either HP Lovecraft or James Herbert. Horror fans…jump into ‘The Void’!

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