2 out of 5
Directed by: Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie
What a waste. Of energy; of ideas. I can’t claim to have known much about Astron-6 – the mini creative group behind The Void – prior to this flick, but their buzz has seemed controlled positive (meaning the majority isn’t praising them as the Next Big Thing, but at least a Thing To Watch), which I think put me in a receptive mindset for this flick. That they’d sort of gone the Troma route before wanting to toss their practical creature effects at a more serious horror attempt brought to mind Troma graduate James Gunn, and it was pretty cool that they’d successfully funded said effects to The Void through an indiegogo campaign. That’s a very healthy, modern day grass roots vibe, and I can definitely dig it.
But you know how it goes: Sometimes it’s clear from a film’s outset that something is amiss, and though you chalk it up to, y’know, whatever, it tends to set you back into a mindset of needing to have that amiss suspicion proven otherwise. And if the film instead adds insult to injury… Well, good luck coming back from that. What keeps The Void tolerable, at least, is that it does feel honest versus showy. Horror movies loooove referencing the classics, and often it just annoys me: that whomever is behind the scenes wants to prove their horror worth to their viewers. Just accept that Carpenter is a house name; instead of plastering it on your film, maybe focus on the movie first and let the inspiration bubble up organically. And then, of course, you have the gore for gore’s sake stuff, another method of “proving” your movie is legit when it’s pretty clear by this post-torture porn point that blood and guts generally need some kind if context to work.
So Void, stuffed to the monster gills and splatter and violence, and pretty much a non-stop reference to other works, should trigger both of these complaints but it doesn’t. The dividing line between why it works here but not elsewhere is a blurry one, but I’d suppose that Astron-6 already feels they’ve proven their chops on their precious films. So the full intention of this movie was to be a Carpenter / Romero / Jackson blood fest, no pretense, no hiding it. That’s the “honesty,” and that’s why it (visually) amuses rather than annoys.
Unfortunately the filmmakers forgot to do much else in terms of story and editing, so we get 90 minutes of poorly cut, vacuous imagery which the back of your horror-loving brain can register as nifty between bored squirmings in your seat.
The gist: A sheriff (Aaron Poole) takes an injured man he saw stumble into the street to the closest hospital, which just so happens to be in the process of a move thanks to a recent fire. This equates to a barebones staff – including the sheriff’s ex-wife (Kathleen Munroe) – which is perfect for an Assault On Precinct 13 setup when the hospital is surrounded by white-robed, stabby cult members who won’t let those inside leave. And then some people get possessed; some people turn into Thing-esque monsters; some people wander into further horrors in a basement that shouldn’t exist. Once we’re at the hospital, almost every single scene is an homage to something, and, yeah, when the camera sits still, those creatures are pretty inventive, if rather randomly designed within the bare narrative context.
Besides a complete inability to give our characters any actual character – which I credit to the script and not the actors – there’s also the annoyance that when things slow down for words, the words are pointless. Just as the film exists as loosely related visuals, so to is the “story” a mishmash of too many concepts; an attempt at “the unknown” that biffs all the scary aspects. But I think what killed The Void for me – and certainly is what tipped me off from the start (besides the odd TV show-like credits), was the editing. There’s simply zero sense of pacing or space to the way scenes are cut together. It feels fully perfunctory, like marking the runtime with “jump scare needed” and including a second of that just so you can check it off. The hospital and basement are spaces which should feel real but come across as vague rooms and walls, and all those cool monster effects are wasted between action-and-response cuts that dilute any momentum or tension.
This makes the movie amazingly uninteresting to watch, given the theoretical coolness of the visuals… Which is basically what I’m allotting the second star for.
Astron-6 undeniably has chops and passion behind the lens. Given that my take on the flick seems to be shared by others, perhaps that will inform some future project down the road. If they can marry those abilities to am more fleshed out film, that would definitely be worth my time.