When it comes to horror films, I can be really picky.
There so many “me too” horror films out there. The same “insane slasher”. Yet another variant of zombie film. So many gore-filled “torture porn” flicks that focus on severed body parts over substance. I’m always looking for some new filmmaking voices to see they can provide something worth watching for a good hour or two.
The Void definitely worked to get my attention, but some hiccups kept it from fully retaining it.
Conceptually and production wise, it’s impressive. This independent film was originally crowdfunded on Indiegogo with a budget of $82,510. All the special effects, creatures and makeup were practical and not computer generated. And for a first time directing/writing attempt, Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie went more for an old-school horror aesthetic that felt more Lovecraft or Barker in tone.
The film starts with a young man and woman attempting to escape an old house with two men in close pursuit. While the young man escapes, the girl does not, and is subsequently killed by her pursuers.
An on-duty cop finds the escaped boy, and takes him to a nearby hospital to treat his injuries. And that’s where all Hell breaks loose.
This is truly one of those “nothing is what it seems” films, that focuses on a group of survivors trapped in their environment. Inside the hospital, people are getting killed and being transformed into horrific monstrosities. On the outside, mysterious cult members prevent the small group of survivors any chance of escape. One of the survivors is a young pregnant woman who is due to go into labor at any moment, adding tension to their predicament. Further adding to the complication is the arrival of the two men from the beginning of this film, now all having to prepare to fight against these mutated creatures.
As stated earlier, the special effects are impressive. While largely hidden by dark lighting and strobe effects, not relying on CG effects with such a limited budget really adds to the “squishy” feel of these creatures. If you’re a fan of “body horror” films, there are some pretty nasty sequences and character fates.
I also liked the “trapped” feeling reminded me of the original Night of the Living Dead where the protagonists were never truly safe, and outside escape was closed off as an option. This is one of those films where you can tell that everyone is essentially doomed.
While an interesting premise, there are some questionable motives and scenes that don’t always make sense. Some of these random character meetings and relationships seem almost too coincidental, as if these encounters let everyone necessary easily fall into place.
There is also one scene where evidence is presented about a character’s involvement with these macabre events (conveniently linking to another character relationship), and I couldn’t help but wonder why would document their “bad guy plans” this well.
The film is also too dark for its own good. While horror films are always best watched in the dark, it almost feels like a necessity to do so here. There are several scenes where you could barely make out people or creatures, especially as the film went on. It made action sequences and keeping up with the cast difficult during more hectic scenes, and some elements were lost to this.
Pacing seemed to be another issue. For a 90 minute film, some scenes tended to drag out longer than they should have, and little time was used for character development. Even with all the characters together, it took a while to explain the motivations of what exactly was going on, especially with those who possessed vital expository information. The latter half of the film also has a lot of plot elements and character developments/deaths that happen in too short amount of time, primarily dealing with monster creation. The protagonists didn’t exactly drag feet to allow certain moments to happen as quickly as they did.
And the final scene of the movie elicited a giant “What?” from me, considering the previous state of one of the characters. This is supposed to be better?
There were some interesting ideas at play here, and the whole evil cultists/Eldritch Abomination aspects in horror don’t get used often these days. Modern technology has changed the rules how horror films are played out, but this one goes for more of a 1980’s/1990’s aesthetic, adding to the isolated feel of the movie. While I called some of the resolutions, I still managed to be surprised by the story’s direction a few times.
I don’t know if the filmmakers are considering a sequel to this, or are planning to let the lack of resolution speak for itself. The Void isn’t a terrible movie, but struggled with pacing, too many moments of story convenience, and needed to actually show the world the filmmakers clearly worked so hard to create. For such a low-budget movie, the work is impressive, but it could have used a few more tweaks to make it something more.