The Void is not void of ambition. Practical effects create globular flesh akin to From Beyond and birth beasts with tentacles like The Thing—done on a smaller scale budget and in dimmer lighting. A satanic cult descends upon a nearly vacant hospital like it’s Assault on Precinct 13—except they’re dressed in white bed sheets that adorn a creepy black pyramid. And like the aforementioned From Beyond, there’s a separate dimension, and it looks pretty similar to what we saw in The Beyond—except with a neon haze.
Modern chic horror has frequently become a bloody valentine to the 70s and 80s and The Void has that in spades, most frequently paralleling the holy trinity of the above listed films by John Carpenter (The Thing, Assault on Precinct 13), Lucio Fulci (The Beyond) and Stuart Gordon (when he’s adapting H.P. Lovecraft a la From Beyond). The practical effects are pretty astounding. The cinematography and design is goth disco fabulous. And the pacing is stellar. The look of The Void is ready for the big time, but the story is both too immense and too slender to make it a complete jaw-dropping experience. The cult is creepy as hell and the new dimension is eerie but we’re never sure what one has to do with the other. This is world-building that’s all world, no foundation. But there are moments of such artistry even if you don’t know what you’re watching, you know you’re watching a directing duo, Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski, who could very well make one of your future favorite terrors. (The director duo are part of a Canadian ensemble called Astrong-6 and both also worked as visual assistants on Suicide Squad; Gillespie as an assistant art director and Kostanski as an effects make-up artist.) What The Void lacks in clarity it covers up with unbridled lunacy and goop.
The Void begins with a murder at a suspicious dilapidated house. The injured one that gets away (Evan Stern) eventually stumbles out onto a secluded rural highway and the local patrolman on duty (Aaron Poole) picks him up and takes him to the closest hospital. The hospital has only a handful of physicians and interns, the phones don’t work and the supplies are limited: the hospital is in the middle of relocation and the head doctor (Kenneth Welsh) will gladly tell you the facts about how you’re more likely to die in a hospital than anywhere else. A father-son team (Daniel Fathers and Mik Byskov) from the scene of the first crime arrives at the hospital hellbent on killing the junkie who got away. And then the hooded cult emerges in the parking lot and the policeman barricades the entrance—but they don’t seem to want in, they seem to want to keep whatever is inside the hospital from getting out.
While handcuffed to a gurney the junkie talks about a weird sex cult involving bloody sacrifices; and in different rooms of the hospital, explosive body transformations begin within the patients who remain; on top of this, the doctor is creepily revered by his female staff and yeah, there’s something else out there on another plane of existence. As a chamber play, The Void groups a bunch of disparate individuals with far too many coincidences in their backstories. For the amount that we’re told of each person’s connection, we primarily want to know more about the cult in the parking lot and the demons in the alternate dimension.
Still, although the triangle of story (the cult being one side, the dimension being another and the fresh-fleshed monsters being the third) never makes much sense, The Void never gets frustrating until you’re left with very little answers at the end. In the moment, The Void is transfixing and bewitching; you always want to know more about what you’re seeing. Gillespie and Kostanski have created a nerve-wracking experiment where there’s too many interesting things going on; it’s not a bad problem to have, but it does make The Void more of a calling card movie. It doesn’t all come together, but there are moments of moody distinction; genre greatness certainly feels like it’s not too far down the road for this duo. And worshipping a triangle of Carpenter, Fulci and Lovecraft ain’t a bad calling card to have.
The Void is a creature feature that meditates on cosmic fear. It never tells a joke. It treats everything as serious—and that includes the grosser kills. This movie has no punctuation mark death-by-inventive instrument, instead it focuses on maintaining dread in every direction. Because of this, it’s the rare homage horror movie where those it plays homage to might actually fully approve. At the very least, they’d probably like to see what these directors could do next.
The Void opens in select cities April 7 and will also be available on VOD platforms.