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THE VOID (2016)
Movie Review by L.L. Soares
Some people have been calling THE VOID (2016) a “throwback” to 1980s horror movies, and I can see that. Unfortunately, to compare this movie to something like Stuart Gordon’s FROM BEYOND (1986), is more detrimental than complimentary. Directors like Gordon did this kind of thing a lot better back in the day.
Directed and written by Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski (who both worked on the 2011 Troma film FATHER’S DAY—which has five directors and five writers listed! —and who are both part of the film production company Astron-6), THE VOID was first shown at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas, in September 2016, and then at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival last October. It got a limited theatrical run this year (where I am, it played a midnight showing one weekend, which I wasn’t able to attend), and is now available for streaming on Amazon Prime.
THE VOID begins with screams and a man and a woman running from a house. The man is a drug addict named James (Evan Stern), who appears to be bleeding and runs out into the woods. The woman is shot and set on fire by Vincent (Daniel Fathers) and his son, Simon (Mik Byskov). They then go after James.
Sheriff’s Deputy Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole) is sleeping in his police cruiser, just about to end his shift, when he sees someone crawling on the ground in front of him. It’s James, and when Daniel sees him covered in blood, he rushes the man to the nearest hospital. Unfortunately, the hospital is in disarray. There was a fire that damaged most of the building, and they’re in the process of moving. For the time being, there’s just a skeleton crew running the place, which includes Dr. Richard Powell (Kenneth Welsh), who has known Daniel since he was a kid, and who was friends with Daniel’s now-deceased father; nurses Alison (Kathleen Munroe)—who just happens to be Daniel’s estranged wife; they separated after the death of their child—and Beverly (Stephanie Belding); and intern Kim (Ellen Wong). There are only three other people there, a patient named Cliff (Matt Kennedy) in a hospital bed, and a pregnant girl named Maggie (Grace Munro) in the waiting room, accompanied by her grandfather, Ben (James Millington).
James immediately starts struggling and trying to escape, so Dr. Powell gives him a sedative. Meanwhile, Daniel walks in on Nurse Beverly jabbing a knife into patient Cliff’s eye, killing him. When Daniel confronts her, she tries to stab him next, so he shoots her. Another policeman named Mitchell (Art Hindle) shows up and tells Daniel to give him is gun, since it was involved in a homicide (i.e, shooting Beverly). When Daniel goes to his patrol car to call in the incident, he sees some weird guys in the woods wearing white sheets with black triangles over their faces. They attack him and stab him, but he’s able to escape and go back inside the hospital.
Not long afterwards, Vincent and Simon show up with guns, looking for James, and things explode into chaos. James tries to take Maggie hostage, holding a scalpel to her throat, to bargain for his freedom; Dr. Powell is stabbed when he tries to intervene; and Daniel tries desperately to reason with the armed newcomers.
Then things get really weird. Beverly has turned into some weird tentacled monster and grabs Mitchell, dragging him into another room.
This is how the story is set up. From here, it’s just a matter of survival, as crowds of hooded cult members surround the hospital outside, preventing anyone from leaving, and there’s tension between Daniel, James, Vincent and Simon, not to mention the fact that Maggie starts going into labor and Alison needs some medication for her that is in the fire-damaged part of the hospital where no one is supposed to go, because it’s unsafe.
Oh, and Beverly is just the first person to turn into a monster.
With multiple threats inside and outside, the tension stays ramped up. Vincent and Simon try to take James (but where are they going to go, with all the hooded freaks outside?). Daniel tries to protect everyone else. And people who die turn into weirdo monsters.
All I’ll say is, it all has to do with some weird research Dr. Powell had been working on, leading to a kind of cool ending in the morgue (in a sub-basement).
While I didn’t hate THE VOID, I did have a strong sense that I’d seen this story before. Once Daniel and the two armed guys go downstairs and find a room full of deformed dead people, who suddenly “wake up” and attack, the sense of déjà vu got even stronger. The deformed zombies reminded me a little of a Lucio Fulci movie—but not anywhere near as insane—and the tentacled monsters reminded me of FROM BEYOND and, even more so, of John Carpenter’s THE THING (1982). Although I do have to give the filmmakers credit for using rubber prosthetics to make for more visceral-looking creatures. When filmmakers go the CGI route with a budget this small, it’s almost always looks horrible and fake-looking, so the creatures in THE VOID aren’t too bad.
But there are two big problems I had with the movie. First off, the script. There were several times in THE VOID, when I wasn’t 100% sure what was going on. Someone’s actions didn’t fully make sense, or something would happen that I wasn’t totally sure of (what happened?), and there were some points where I just felt annoyed. A better script would have clarified things a bit. The other big problem is the lighting. An awful lot of this movie takes place in dark spaces, with people using flashlights to see, and that, mixed with the sometimes confusing script, just increased my frustration. Sure, it’s cool that the monsters aren’t CGI, but we never get a really good look at some of them, because of the darkness issues. The effects we do see, including a man who has removed his own skin, and a woman turned into some kind of monster-baby machine, are good. But there are too many moments that aren’t as visually clear and effective. The tentacled monsters looked a little too much like THE THING, though, for what we see of them.
THE VOID got some buzz in the film festival circuit, so I definitely wanted to check it out. And there are some good things about it, including most of the performances; the effective soundtrack; and the fact that it plays out seriously (a “jokey horror” tone would have made it unbearable). And I liked the ending. But, for the overall movie experience, the negatives slightly outweighed the positives for me.
I give it two out of five knives.
© Copyright 2017 by L.L. Soares
LL Soares gives THE VOID~ two knives.