Thursday 4 May 2017

The Void - a quick review...

What's it about?
A police officer encounters an injured and delirious man out in the woods, and rushes him to the nearest hospital - which happens to be in the process of closing down after a fire gutted its basement levels. However, upon arrival, the officer - with a few staff and patients - finds himself surrounded by strange figures dressed in all white with black triangles where their faces should be. Soon things get out of control as hideous monstrosities erupt from dead bodies, unleashing something worse than hell upon the Earth.
Who would I recognise in it?
Ellen Wong, Kenneth Welsh, Kathleen Munroe, and others.
Written and Directed by Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski, who have worked in various capacities on some of the Astron-6 projects (such as Manborg and Father's Day), The Void wears its metaphysical body horror influences on its sleeve...

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"The Thing" and "Hellraiser" loom large in the glorious practical effects, and the likes of "Prince of Darkness" and "The Beyond" are both directly referenced for keen-eyed genre aficionados. Slightly less assured is the script, which somewhat fumbles a few of the initial set pieces (not enough tension is built) and throws the audience in at the deep end, although the aforementioned "Prince of Darkness" similarly forced its audience to 'just go with it'. That said, the deeper the characters explore the nightmarish corridors of the hospital, the more layers get peeled back and a throughline of parental tragedy and rebirth emerges.

Visually strong with inventive creature design (Kostanski's strongest suit), The Void ratchets up the intensity after a slightly unsteady first act until the protagonists are faced with rooms filled with horrific entities and hulking monsters. It's all the more impressive considering it was done practically with only a handful of digital compositing effects (explained in the informative featurettes on the disc) - proving that even in the 21st Century there's nothing quite like doing it for real. It's all the more astonishing when you take into account their tight schedule and budget - the sense of scale and extent of splatter that the filmmakers have achieved is decidedly impressive. Considering The Void's influences, and by way of an example, consider how good Rob Bottin's work on "The Thing" (1982) still looks and compare it with the glaringly obvious CGI bugger ups of the "The Thing" (2011). Of course we know these beasties aren't real - we're aware we're watching a movie, after all - but there's real-fake and then there's fake-fake. CGI can never attain that uncanny sense that the viewer gets when an on-screen monster/gore effect has been achieved on-set in front of the actors who can interact with it right there and then.

A few weaknesses in the first act aside, The Void is a must-see for horror fans, managing to simultaneously adore its 80s influences and show the 21st Century how killing (on-screen) the old way can't be beat. Good-to-Great.

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