Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Lupine Film Club: The Void

Directors: Steven Kostanski
                 Jeremy Gillespie
Year: 2016

I first heard about The Void late last year, when its name began getting thrown round on a few movie sites as a horror movie to keep an eye on. Words like “Fulci-esque” and “1980s” were mentioned, and that immediately piqued my interest. I love horror but I tend to be pretty bad at staying current; I’m usually happy enough to wait a year or two and then check things out on Netflix or DVD. But this looked like a must-watch.

I would say that the initial descriptors have carried through to the final product. The Void isn’t as intentionally period piece-y as Beyond the Gates (also released in 2016) but the spectre of the 1980s still looms large over the proceedings. The most obvious cinematic touchstones are John Carpenter’s The Thing, Clive Barker’s Hellraiser and Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond, but there are plenty of other references to be found too. H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmic horror and the Silent Hill video game series both deserve nods. So if you like any of these, then it’s a fair bet you’ll find something to enjoy about The Void.

It’s a good pool of influences to draw from. But with that caveat, it would be pretty fair to say that The Void is driven by style over substance. The plot is thin even by the standards of the genre; all you need to know is that some kind of cult is trying to open a gateway to the titular Void, and so a whole bunch of horrifying stuff happens along the way. As for how it actually plays out…well, let’s just say you will have many questions, and virtually none of them will be answered by the final reel. The characters are barely even archetypes. Kenneth Welsh’s Dr Powell is fleshed out a little, but you’ll find yourself longing for the rich characterisation found in something like Zombie Flesh Eaters. I also think there are probably a few too many characters onscreen; even allowing for some of them merely being there to build the body count, it doesn’t aid the viewer in building attachment to any of them. There isn’t anything terribly original for experienced viewers and the experience may well be too abstract for newcomers to horror.   

But don’t let this put you off! After all, most of this is a deliberate tribute to The Void’s grindhouse and pulp origins, and the final product is a lot of fun. There are a lot of horror films which are kind of trash when viewed on their own merits, but contain scenes or a special effect that ultimately redeem the film. The Void still stands above plenty of its forebears in that regard. It’s consistently great to look at, with excellent special effects – if you can stomach the gore – and something weird is always about to happen, so you’re never given the chance to be bored. While I wouldn’t say there are any plot twists per se, there are still definitely numerous gruesome surprises in the way things play out. The mythos definitely leaves room for a sequel, and if they take the IndieGoGo route again, I’d be more than happy to put my cash forward. 

The Void is a good, stylish piece of low-budget filmmaking, even showing signs of greatness at points. It’s held back on a number of points, but it’s nonetheless a welcome change from the standard demonic possession fare that has been filling cinemas over the last few years. Highly recommended, if not quite the instant neo-grindhouse classic that I was hoping for. 

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