Written & Directed by Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski
As I sat watching The Void’s opening moments, a foreboding feeling settled in the pit of my stomach. The best horror movies have a knack for evoking a general sense of unease; before you can put a finger on what’s wrong, something just feels…off. Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski, who co-wrote and co-directed The Void, do their damnedest to ensure those early jitters never let up. What follows is a 90-minute revelry for the ghastly, the repulsive, and the grotesque.
The Void revels in the ghastly, the repulsive, and the grotesque.
Small town cop Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole) is in for one hell of a night. While out on duty, Carter finds a blood-soaked man lying on the road and rushes him to the closest hospital. It’s at the hospital where we’re introduced to the rest of The Void’s cast. We meet Carter’s ex-wife Allison (Kathleen Munroe), a salty old doctor (Kenneth Welsh), a snarky millennial (Ellen Wong), a sweet as pie grandfather to be (James Millington), and his expecting granddaughter Maggie (Grace Munroe).
The night takes a turn when one of the hospital staff cuts off her own face and then drives a pair of scissors into a sleeping patient’s eye sockets. Carter catches her in the act, open fires, and kills her. As the chaos dies down, knife-wielding cult-members show up outside and prevent anyone from leaving the hospital. As if things weren’t bad already, the lady Carter killed resurrects as a disfigured creature. Trapped in the hospital, in shock, and mistrusting of one another, the group must quickly devise a plan if they want to make it out alive.
The Void features humdrum dialogue, cookie-cutter characters, and a generic plot. We’ve seen horror movies hit the exact same beats countless times. Everyone knows the drill: A group of strangers get trapped in a location, reluctantly band together, and an evil force picks them off one by one. No one expects The Void to reinvent the wheel. However, a film can lean on genre tropes while separating itself in some meaningful way.
The Void doesn’t have to deconstruct horror like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it shouldn’t evaporate from our memory when we leave the theatre either. If 24-hours go by and I can’t recall any character’s names or quote a line of dialogue, the film must try harder.
Another nitpick I have with The Void is that it is humourless. It’s tightly wound and packed with so much anxiety that watching the movie becomes exhausting. By the time the credits roll people may suffer adrenal fatigue. Horror works best when there are peaks and valleys. We laugh harder when we’ve had the life scared out of us and we’re easy to shock in the moments when laughter makes us feel safe. Considering how ludicrous The Void’s stakes are — flailing tentacles emerge from a woman’s faceless corpse — the film needs to break up the tension. Horror movies often include humour without throwing their tone out of whack. It’s ok for a character to wisecrack while facing death. After all, gallows humour is a natural coping mechanism.
Despite my gripes, the movie’s flaws don’t derail the movie. If you appreciate old-school practical effects extravaganzas from the 80’s, then The Void offers plenty to enjoy. CGI gore never packs the same punch as effects captured by the camera. The Void’s practical effects do more than pack punch, they go for knockout blows. The movie gets so disturbing that I guarantee it’s going to ruin some poor kid’s childhood.
The Void’s hellish vibe and unsettling creature designs remind me of the 2015 Turkish horror movie, Baskin. Throw in The Thing’s sense of claustrophobia and fantastic effects work and you’ve got a spot on description. The tension, the brutality, and the gruesome images create a visual hellscape bound to set up shop in your nightmares; gooey pieces of viscera slide down walls, puss leaks out from wounds, and people hack away chunks of monster flesh with axes.
The Void has the tools to stand out from other gore-fests but its stock characters and mediocre plot prevent it from rising to the challenge. Still, the ambitious practical effects make The Void worth the price of admission. Coming in at a brisk 90-minutes, the movie’s flaws never become grating. This horror outing is short and to the blood-soaked point.
The Void isn’t a great movie but it is a great visceral thrill-ride. Despite taking itself uber-seriously, the movie is still plenty of fun. The best way to experience this film is in a large theatre packed with a horror-loving audience. If you have the slightest hesitation about scary movies, be cautious going in, The Void will leave you shaken.
Victor Stiff is a Toronto-based pop culture writer and film critic who enjoys covering the city’s biggest (and nerdiest) events. Victor has covered TIFF, Hot Docs, Toronto After Dark, Toronto ComiCon, and Fan Expo Canada for publications all over the internet. You can find his latest posts on Twitter and Instagram.
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