Directed by Steven Konstanski and Jeremy Gillespie
Distributed by Signature Entertainment
Films that pay tribute to John Carpenter have practically become their own sub-genre at this point; in the last few years alone there’s been The Purge trilogy, The Guest, Green Room, Dredd, Lockout, It Follows and many others. This form of Carpenter-ploitation is hardly a bad thing, considering most of those movies are pretty great, and the master himself is more or less retired. The trouble begins when a film feels like it’s made up of references, instead of carving its own unique territory.
It’s hard not to think of Carpenter while watching The Void, which is a siege film that riffs on Assault on Precinct 13, The Thing and – in particular – Prince of Darkness. The Void’s story finds a police officer taking a wounded man to a hospital, only for a murderous cult to appear and trap everyone inside. It soon becomes clear an otherworldly force has been unleashed within the building, which morphs its victims into twisted, slimy creatures.
Taken on its own terms The Void is a solid throwback genre flick, one that commits to the horror of the setup without winking at viewers. A major selling point of The Void is the practical effects, which are damn impressive for such a low-budget effort. They’re not always convincing, but there’s a texture and gooeyness to these creatures that give the monster scenes a real edge. The acting is also strong, with Aaron Poole making for a compelling, flawed hero and Ellen Wong stealing every scene she appears in.
While the story intentionally keeps things vague, the dialogue could have used another polish. The film has a bad habit of withholding key information, then spewing it out in long reams of exposition to set up the next act, which never feels completely natural. There’s no denying The Void is also a massive potpourri of references to other movies. Beside the Carpenter nods there are winks to Silent Hill, The Beyond, the works of Lovecraft, Hellraiser, Event Horizon and lots more. Paying homage isn’t a problem in and of itself, but when the nods happen so frequently it just snaps you out of the story.
The Void has a strong atmosphere to make up for that, and while it’s never flat-out terrifying, there are certain scenes that are downright eerie, such as the first attack by the cult. The camera work is occasionally too jittery but there are some gorgeous visuals to behold, giving the whole thing a suitably nightmarish feel.
The special features on this UK release include a fun director’s commentary, wherein Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski playfully rip into each other and the film, whilst discussing the various difficulties involved in making it. Also included is a Proof of Concept trailer and a twenty-minute behind-the-scenes documentary.
The Void is a cool little horror movie, and while it may lack originality, it will bring a smile to fans of old school 80’s horror or those who love practical effects. This is a situation where a sequel would also be welcome, as the film’s mythology leaves scope for another story or two.
• Director’s Commentary
• Behind-the-Scenes Documentary
• Proof of Concept Trailer