Canadian based production company Astron-6 is known for their ’80s centric horror comedies. Having previously teamed up on Manborg and Father’s Day, Astron-6 members Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski wanted to explore a story that eschewed their familiar reliance on comedy and explored their shared interest of fringe horror. In an age where pre-production is almost always rushed, they took a gamble with crowdfunding to nail down a vital component; practical creature effects. The result is a nostalgic, gory creature feature reminiscent of everything we loved about ’80s horror.
A quiet night in a small town is interrupted when officer Daniel Carter crosses paths with a bloodied stranger in the middle of the night. Bringing the stranger to the local hospital sets off a chain of events that leaves everyone inside fighting for their lives as the patients and personnel begin transforming into something inhuman and deadly. Trapped inside, Carter must band together with the survivors and descend into the bowels of the hospital if they have any hope to survive through the night.
Unlike previous crowdfunded creature features that promised hardcore horror fans a return to glory only to fall far short of its promise (cough Harbinger Down cough), Gillespie and Kostanski deliver. Copious amounts of blood, gore, tentacles, and ooze fill the screen. The creature design work is so utterly fantastic that the film is worth seeing on that element alone. The practical effects influences grow increasingly blatant as the film progresses; The Thing, Prince of Darkness, Event Horizon, and The Beyond to name a few. If Clive Barker and H.P. Lovecraft had a warped, twisted love child, it would look like The Void. On the one hand, it hits me in my monster loving feels, and I revel in it’s unabashed adoration of ’80s horror. It fills a gaping hole in horror that I’ve missed. On the other hand, however, the film doesn’t feel like anything more than a series of beloved homages. Aside from stunning, modern cinematography and glorious practical effects, we’re not being introduced to anything new.
From a narrative standpoint, as with typical films of its type, there’s not much to the story. While each actor does a serviceable job in their roles, we never really get to know many of the characters. Only the film’s lead, Carter, seems to have any internal motivation beyond the reactionary survival mode seen in most of the supporting cast. As for what exactly is going down in this hospital, well, Gillespie and Kostanski aren’t really interested in hand holding, either. So if you like your horror clearly defined and wrapped up in a bow, this isn’t for you. It’s an ambitious endeavor that doesn’t quite reach its full potential.
Perfect for a midnight crowd, or those that want a fun ride full of guts and monsters. There’s not much to the story, but that’s not necessarily to the film’s detriment. Gillespie and Kostanski play it straight here, and there’s not much humor to be found. They take on an ambitious concept with varying degrees of success, and the result is an unwitting love letter to the horrors of the ‘80s. Unfortunately, that means that the film loses any sense of true originality as a result.
The Void made its world premiere at Fantastic Fest on September 22, 2016.
The Void [FF Review]