Practical effects have become an elusive unicorn in present day film. Gone are the delightfully cheesy departures of the 80's VHS era, replaced by ultra-budget action films and micro budget horror offerings that endlessly cannibalize urban myths and popular shorts. Imagination and loving homage have become anathema, ultimately forsaken in the era of the "likes" and box office returns dogma. Enter The Void, a full throttle Lovecraftian cosmic terror and a charmingly disgusting Carpenter homage. Rest easy horror fans, The Void delivers.
A local sheriff takes an injured man to the hospital where his estranged wife if a nurse. After their arrival, the building is besieged by white robed cultists and a sinister agenda is revealed. The premise is simple, heroes in an isolated location become tentacle fodder and that is the weakest point of this outstanding film. The first act balances horror and character building deftly, establishing basic rules which are profanely desecrated in an instant once the lights go out. Kostanski and Gillespie have made a film a on their own terms and the result is wonderfully sickening, a modern relic to an age when horror was not only original, but it had rebellious gusto.
The film has been lauded for its use of practical effects. Kelly Knauff's creature design builds on the milieu of Cronenberg's body horror and Carpenter's alien monstrosities to present abscessed terrors from beyond. Samy Inayeh's hideous cinematography displays the effects in half framed carnage, illuminating the fantastic creatures with strobe lighted sequences of ax dismemberments and levitating disembodied feet. Long, retreating takes leave the madness within the mind's eye while blue tinged atrocities create a framework of insanity whose ultimatum slowly reveals itself through a litany of gore. Once the story hits full tilt, it is immediately apparent that the heroes have left our reality and journeyed to a place of the directors' design. Aaron Poole (The Conspiracy) stars as the sheriff and his simplistic approach to the base material is more than enough to breed empathy with the viewer. While the script has a break neck speed, each of the central characters gets a moment shine, albeit usually whilst being strangled by writhing tentacles. This is one of The Void's poisoned surprises. Inayeh's arresting close ups of the humans meld with the bizarre black light world of the monsters at a furious pace, refusing to allow any of the victims to fall into cliché’s. The characters who "know" know nothing and the heroes who decide to face the darkness haven't the slightest notion of the unspeakable forces they seek to confront. Every horror trope is designed with a trap door, a false security blanket supplied to the viewer that is then shredded in a blast of alien ichor and terrifying mutations.
Brendan Brady's production design creates an alien culture of dread through esoteric iconography and jaw dropping, blue stained compositions that dominate the final act. Tisha Myles’ costume design delivers one of the best cultist ensembles ever committed to the screen, showcasing the unnatural ideals of the story with white robed, triangle-faced automatons that stand mercilessly at attention outside the hospital. The makeup effects house the villain in an obsidian skeleton of twisted scientific design that settles into the sickening bowels of the body horror genre. Blitz/Berlin's synth infused score swirls around the action as a final touch on the perfect 80's throwback. All of these elements are woven together to create an abnormally proficient shocker about the limits of loss and the power of commitment, themes that are mainlined into the viewer's lizard brain by way of creepy phone calls and surprisingly fun villainous monologues.
|My girlfriend told me to get something that makes her look sexy...so I got drunk|
Available now for digital rental, The Void is an imperfect surprise and one of the best original works of 2017. There are glaring flaws and the acting is B movie chic, but these truths are essential to the 80's, practical effects hearts blood that is the essence of this film. Horror movies are universally hit or miss. The Void is a headshot, with gut churning visual terrors and a wonderfully compact story best consumed when the lights go out.
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