Mark Reviews Movies

The Void


2 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Directors: Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski

Cast: Aaron Poole, Kathleen Munroe, Daniel Fathers, Mik Byskov, Kenneth Welsh, Evan Stern, Ellen Wong, Grace Munro, Art Hindle, Stephanie Belding

MPAA Rating: Not rated

Running Time: 1:30

Release Date: 4/7/17

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Review by Mark Dujsik | April 6, 2017

There are three distinct movements to The Void. It begins as a thriller about a group of people trapped inside a remote location, battling internal conflicts and evading an external threat. It becomes a monster movie, with plenty of gruesome creatures that drip goo, spout pus, and sprout appendages from places where appendages shouldn't come. The movie finally lands on some kind of occult mythos, interdimensional nonsense, or some otherworldly combination of the two. This is the kind of movie that gets better the crazier and more bizarre it becomes.

It's still not good, though, especially because it seems to have outright hostility for its characters, who are the only representatives of humanity we have here. On the other hand, directors Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski have crafted an icky and enigmatic throwback to the kinds of movies that cared about its monsters looking especially gross. Some of the filmmaking specifics border on incompetent (The editing often tries to cheat away some budgetary restrictions with laughable results, and those characters are really a problem), but it's clear that the duo has a soft spot for material like this.

It would be weird to call a fondness for the disgusting "passion," but whatever one would call such a feeling, these two have it. It's kind of endearing, although that, too, is probably the wrong word.

The story—as if it really matters—is mostly set inside a low-traffic hospital in the middle of nowhere. While on an uneventful patrol, Sheriff Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole) is confronted with a mysterious man, apparently drunk, who stumbles out of the woods. The man, named James (Evan Stern), is wounded, so Daniel brings him to the nearest hospital, which is barely functioning on account of a recent fire. The Sheriff's estranged wife Allison (Katherine Munroe) works as a nurse there.

Soon enough, the hospital encounters two parties of seemingly uninvited guests: a pair of locals—one with a hunting rifle and one who's mute after a throat injury (played, respectively, by Daniel Fathers and Mik Byskov)—looking to kill James and a group of people wearing body-and-face-covering white cloaks. The hooded strangers attack anyone who steps out of the hospital.

Part of the problem with the first act of the screenplay (written by the directors) is that there isn't a likeable character among the bunch. Daniel is an atypical hero, who possesses little of the know-how and none of the courage that we might anticipate of someone in his station. The idea behind it a bit refreshing, since a certain level of panic is to be expected in this kind of situation, but Gillespie and Kostanski err on the side of turning Daniel into a bumbling fool. The locals hunting for James are men whom we see murder a woman at the start of the movie and who—in addition to one of them just being a misanthropes—are fine with torture to get information. Allison is the only one who seems to know what to do, but her character is quickly reduced to a damsel in distress to motivate Daniel.

There are a few others, of course, although most of them are not long for the movie. The ones who last longer include Dr. Powell (Kenneth Welsh), who appears to exit the story sooner than he actually does, and Kim (Ellen Wong), a nurse-in-training who spends a good chunk of time on screen cowering in a corner. A pregnant woman (Grace Munro) and her grandfather (Art Hindle) round out the rest of the soon-to-be victims—or so it would seem.

There's a conspiracy afoot, involving a book on the occult and grisly medical experiments. To try to explain the whole mess, though, would mean that the movie communicates it in any meaningful way. It doesn't, but that's not the point. The last act involves another realm, which one character believes could solve the problem of death (Amusingly, despite the movie's title, characters keep referring to this place as "the Abyss," as if the filmmakers really thought they'd get away with using that name as the title). As you might expect, the good and lofty intentions go horribly awry.

That's how the monsters come into play, and one's appreciation for the movie likely will hinge on one's appreciation for the creatures. What can be said is that they're grotesque beasts, created using lots of makeup, prosthetics, and other forms of good, old-fashioned practical effects work. They spray blood and lose limbs frequently and in considerable detail (There seems to be an abundance of axes and other sharp weapons in this particular hospital). What can't be said is that the monsters come across as any sort of threat. Some of it must be practical limitation, since the more elaborate creatures don't seem to be able to move much (leading to a couple of edits in which a character suddenly and comically ends up in a creature's grasp). Most of it is simply the repetitive nature of this sort of material.

It's tempting to grade The Void on a bit of a curve, if only because Gillespie and Kostanski do more than a competent job with the material's inherent obstacles. This is especially true of the third act, which is almost hypnotic in giving us a significant feeling of "What just happened here?"

Copyright © 2017 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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