The Void Imagines a World Where Rob Bottin Collaborated on Assault on Precinct 13
The parts are greater than the whole, but the parts are the stuff of nightmares.
The Canadian collective known as Astron-6 makes films, both shorts and features, for viewers with certain… sensibilities. I’m proud to count myself among those viewers with questionable tastes and will happily follow the team’s members down whichever paths they choose to explore onscreen. One of my favorites among their gory, funny, and insane oeuvre is 2011’s epic revenge saga, Father’s Day, and now two of that film’s directors – Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski – have delivered a film removed from the typical Astron-6 fare.
There’s humor to be found in The Void, but it is as far from a comedy as their usual movies are from mainstream acceptance. This is a descent into hell complete with monsters, madmen, and mutilation, and while the whole somewhat misses the mark the parts within are enough to feed our thirst for horrific imagery.
Officer Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole) is a low-level cop in a boring stretch of rural America. Nothing happens here, until it does. A drive on a back road reveals a man stumbling in shock and covered in blood that’s not his own. Dan brings him to the nearest hospital – one in the process of shutting down and shifting operations to a bigger one closer to civilization – and settles in alongside a bare-bones, four-person hospital staff and a young pregnant woman there with her grandfather.
Almost immediately, the hospital and its occupants are targeted by competing threats. A pair of shotgun-wielding men arrive intent on killing the man found on the road, and a group of mysterious, cloaked figures armed with large knives encircle the building.
Oh, and then there are the monsters.
The Void is very much a siege film with protagonists trapped in a building with enemies on all sides, but its greatest appeal for horror fans will be the nightmarish creatures developing inside. Practical effects-lovers are rewarded handsomely (and gruesomely) as people begin morphing into monsters that defy easy categorization. Bodies shift and pop, teeth and foul fluids ooze, and the results are creatures that recall beasts from films as diverse as John Carpenter’s The Thing, Stuart Gordon’s From Beyond, and Clive Barker’s Hellraiser. The fantastic effects, and the nods to other horror movies, make for horrific fun even if the film itself is (mostly) deadly serious.
The small cast is convincing throughout led by another personable but intense performance by Poole. He has a terrific every-man quality that serves him as well here as it did in earlier indie horror films like The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh and The Conspiracy. Even more enjoyable though is seeing genre veteran Art Hindle (The Brood, The Octagon) and Ellen Wong, who for some reason hasn’t been cast in every film since Scott Pilgrim like I demanded.
It’s the script (also by Gillespie and Kostanski) that ultimately holds the film back though as the pieces never quite come together in a satisfying way. Certain character motivations are muddled at best, and the connections between the main villain and the narrative’s otherworldly outcomes are equally tenuous leading to an ending that lacks impact when it should be doubling down with the intensity and awe.
Still though, The Void offers more than a few strongly dramatic beats and plenty of visual thrills as violent encounters and monstrous creations paint the walls red. It doesn’t land the destination, but the road to hell is never a dull one.