Writer/Director duo Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski’s long-awaited second full-length outing, The Void has finally received a wide-release. The films crowd-funded campaign kicked off in early 2015 and was successfully funded just months later. The pair has chops working in the make-up and art departments of higher budget productions such as NBC’s Hannibal, Crimson Peak and Pacific Rim while also chipping away on more independent projects (such as their first full-length, Father’s Day) run out of the Canadian based Aston-6 production company. Given the credit of their hard work in the industry and the promising proof-of-concept trailer (selling a strong faithfulness to practical effects) released on it’s campaign page, the wait for The Void has been all the more excruciating for genre fans who were finally able to satiate their appetites with the on-demand release of the film on most major digital streaming platforms. So how does it fair?
Well, for the most part pretty good! Starting off with a bang, a frantic couple is chased from a house that appears to be out in the middle of nowhere, followed closely by two men wielding a gun and a gas tank. The female character becomes the unlucky victim in this grisly scenario. Cut to a lone, rookie sheriff sitting lazily in his squad car on a quiet road near by when the lone survivor of the two emerges from the woods; in a daze he slumps to the ground. This prompts our sheriff to take him to a hospital in town where the madness ensues. Right off the bat we get a taste of things to come as we are treated to some creepy visuals that are well imagined yet fairly straight forward in execution. Quick cuts to an ominous landscape as well as a confrontation with the mysterious iconic figures dressed in white that were so heavily teased in the trailer set the mood for what we will witness as the story progresses. In addition to the well fleshed out atmosphere and setting, the creature effects in the movie are as practical as were sold in the projects preceding campaign, which is a refreshing option seeing as many low-budget horror movies today continue to instill cheaper CGI effects over in camera mediums seen in classics such as John Carpenters, The Thing or Clive Barkers, Hellraiser.
Speaking of such films, you might notice that this film wears it’s influences heavily on it’s sleeve as you will undoubtedly catch throwbacks to those aforementioned works in addition to the likes of Event Horizon and even some subtle nods to Lucio Fulci’s Gates of Hell trilogy. Not only can these influences be seen aesthetically but also in the way the story unfolds, utilizing a very Lovecraftian narrative in which we experience an otherworldly dimension and plenty of body horror to go around. Thus a strength of the film, this can however be seen also as somewhat of a weakness as it treads on familiar ground and even seems to get a bit too grandiose in it’s themes confined within the smaller budget indie production from which is was crafted. That being said, to the filmmakers credit, it does these familiar tropes justice and works with them to a knowledgeable degree, so much that you can really tell the creators have utmost respect for their peers and are trying to build on more of what audiences of the horror genre have come to know and love.
In terms of cinematography there’s nothing striking here in terms of style but Samy Inayeh (who has previously worked on other indie-horror breakouts, Extraterrestrial and The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh) does a fine job at making the camera work as transparent and slick as possible, though the use of a stabilizer may have helped polish some of the hand held shots throughout the film. The acting is another factor that didn’t quite stand out as either a negative or an overwhelming positive in the film, yet with what the cast was given they did a fine job at expressing the material and the narrative flowed smoothly thanks to the mostly confident editing choices. Though you may not recognize them, it might interest some to know that industry veterans Kenneth Welsh (Exorcism of Emily Rose, Twin Peaks) and Art Hindle (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Brood) help round out the cast of faces you may or recognize from supporting roles in other features or recently aired TV shows. Again, this was a crowd-funded project, so the fact that as many known actors as there are on display here is definitely a testament to the support from the horror community this movie had going in, which was paramount to it’s success of getting it off the ground and onto the screens.
Hardcore fans of horror will definitely appreciate the throwbacks and practical effects familiar to finer points in the genre’s history in which beloved works continue to influence our standards of what a good horror film should be. Though the story trots through familiar territory, there is some originality and it’s done in a way that respects the audience and even gives us something to think about once the credits roll. Indie filmmakers across the board have more mediums than ever to bring their stories to an audience whether it’s an original idea or a refreshing take done in just the right way. It’s great to see films like this getting the spotlight and will hopefully help to push quality and originality in films that both entertain and satisfy in a genre so dense with titles that are seemingly churned out and are hardly worth our time or money.
By: Clayton Benge