Monday, April 3, 2017

'The Void' (2016) Movie Review

Throw John Carpenter, Clive Barker, and H.P. Lovecraft into a blender, hit the button, leave the room for a while, and the resulting concoction may well resemble The Void, the latest genre whoop-dee-doo from Canadian filmmaking/maniac collective Astron-6. Don’t expect the camp of Manborg, Astron-6 plays this relatively straight, but the same deep love is there. More than most throwbacks, this legitimately feels like a lost gem from 1983 someone dug out of the Salvation Army VHS bin thinking, “This looks rad.”

Nostalgia is a double-edged sword. For every attempted homage, there’s a dozen efforts that, while they ape the masters on a cursory level, aren’t, you know, actually worth watching. But thankfully, writers/directors Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski get what makes the movies they emulate so awesome, and The Void is chock full bonkers genre mayhem.

We’ve got death cults, many-tentacled monsters, a confined setting besieged by mysterious exterior forces, gore for days, kickass Rob Bottin-inspired practical effects (so gooey), hazy motivations, a barely-strung-together cosmic-influenced plot that only kind of makes sense, and an ending that leaves viewers scratching their head, asking, “Huh,” but also totally digging it.

If you watch a lot of horror movies, you know you never want to set foot in any establishment that’s being shut down. Think of the near-abandoned police station in Assault on Precinct 13. You’ve got a ton of empty rooms, a skeleton crew, and no one to lean on for backup. Basically, you’re on your own and completely screwed. This is the situation in which the characters in The Void find themselves.

Small town sheriff Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole) picks up a bloody man (Evan Stern) on the side of the road and takes him to the local hospital, which is in the process of shuttering permanently. Staffed by his estranged wife (Kathleen Munroe), a vapid nurse-in-training (Ellen Wong), and grizzled town doctor (Kenneth Welsh), there’s also an old man (James Millington), and his pregnant granddaughter (Grace Munro) in the waiting room. Before long, Vincent (Daniel Fathers) and his mute sidekick, Simon (Mik Byskov), show up with guns, trying to kill the drifter; an army of shadowy, silent, sheet-clad cult weirdoes surround the building; and, oh yeah, monsters claw their way out of corpses in the gooiest way possible. Then shit gets twisted.

Poole’s out-of-his-depth everyman is the perfect protagonist for this scenario. He’s exacerbated, gets the holy hell kicked out of him, and has no idea what’s going on. But with his harried, “Fuck it, I have to deal with this” attitude, of course he has to go down the magically appearing mystery stairway into who-knows-what level of subbasement hell. And every time he steps into new drama, his “Oh god, what am I doing,” hesitation is palpable.

This is more for hardcore horror heads than general audiences—fans of Turkish hell-dream Baskin take heed. Notes of Hellraiser, The Thing, and Prince of Darkness; ancient evils, crazy practical creature effects, flickering lights, and exaggerated color palates; ominous clouds, claustrophobic interiors, and dudes covered in white sheets lurking in the woods. Mixing it all, The Void is tense and eerie, weird as all hell, and a blast of schlocky 80s horror glee. The Void delivers dramatic beats; manic, WTF monster madness; and enough gore to paint an entire hospital red. [Grade: B+]

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