The Void is an unabashed celebration of classic B-movies, a smorgasbord of horror tropes lovingly arranged for nostalgic consumption. Co-written and directed by Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski, the film champions an old-fashioned approach to horror filmmaking, and will certainly delight fans of the genre. Though some of the plot elements end up feeling rushed and overly complicated (especially the ending), The Void offers some astonishing visuals, a gripping and creepy story, and wonderful gore effects. This is B-movie charm at its absolute finest, and should delight lovers of ‘80s horror, even if it is a little haphazard.
Get your horror trope checklist ready for The Void. A police officer named Daniel (Aaron Poole) finds a man stumbling down a road and takes him to a local abandoned hospital. Bizarre cultists surround the hospital as the people inside start to act strange, and then transform into Cronenberg/Carpenter hybrid creatures, or sometimes zombies. As people are slashed and turned into monsters, darker machinations are set into motion to open a portal to another dimension. The hospital can’t keep its lights on, and there’s a reasonable amount of body horror as well. Axes are dragged on the ground, tendrils erupt from people’s eyes, and lots of things are incinerated.
Without exception, the best elements of The Void are the in-camera practical effects. These include some awesome gore and makeup, creepy-crawly animatronics and puppets à la The Thing, and other horrific visuals. These visuals can be incredibly simple, like the stark costuming of the cultists (seen below), or batshit insanity that reminds of Brundle Fly. It is obvious that Gillespie and Kostanski cut their teeth on practical effects and makeup, because everything in The Void is beautifully built, lit, and executed. It is a kind of horror filmmaking that we rarely see anymore.
The clearest visual stylistic choice in The Void is the rampant use of darkness. This movie is darker than a DCEU trailer, to the point that the action on the screen is sometimes unintelligible. To its credit, this is often to ramp up the tension, isolate the characters, and hide the monsters, so it isn’t just dark for the sake of dark. There’s a balance to strike though, and sometimes it feels like The Void dials down the lighting just a tad too far, for too long. The film plays a little with the tone of the lighting too, shifting to a haunting red light in the climactic moments of the movie. This is a powerful effect, and lends some variety to the appearance of the movie.
The devotion of Gillespie and Kostanski to stunning visuals is such that practically every other aspect of the film is subservient to its practical effects. The characters are not particularly likeable or well-developed, so there is a lack of emotional resonance when they start dropping. The story is also pretty slap-dash, blending together elements of zombie movies, supernatural horror in the Lovecraftian vein, body horror, and a few other weird things. Finally, the themes are a little too thin and varied for there to be any weight to them. The film gets bogged down trying to develop complex ideas like trauma, family, the afterlife/alternate dimensions, but spends too little time on each.
One may bristle at the lack of focus in these areas, but classifying The Void as a simple cohesive film may be missing the forest for the trees. Nit-picking the weaker elements of the movie distracts from the fun of nostalgic exploration of time-honored horror tropes. This is not to say that The Void is simply the horror movie equivalent of a Family Guy episode, piecing together The Fly, The Thing, and Night of the Living Dead and riffing on them ad nauseam. It seems fueled more by respect and homage than by aping references. It is fun to see the toys that Gillespie and Kostanski bring to that sandbox.
Because The Void wears its inspiration so brazenly on its sleeve, it is hard to recommend the film to non-genre fans. It is possible that you could hook someone with The Void, and then show them its myriad predecessors if they are interested. But I believe it much more likely that someone unfamiliar with the tenets of the genre will see the film’s foibles as faults. Not all films have to be for everyone, though, and those pining for the good-old-days of in-camera practical horror effects will find plenty to gush over in The Void.
The Void opened in select theaters on April 7th, with a simultaneous release on VOD platforms (I rented it from Amazon). If you consider yourself a super-fan of ’80s horror films and practical effects, I would love to hear if you enjoyed The Void and its blatant celebration of these kinds of films. If you don’t consider yourself a big fan of these kinds of movies, I’d love to hear from you even more! Did this movie win you over to the genre, or at least pique your interest? Comment down below, and be sure to share this review with horror-loving friends, or friends that you are trying to goad into the horror rabbit hole. And, if you dig the post and want to read more of my stuff, make sure you sign up for notifications (either below or on the sidebar to your right).
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