You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘The Void’

There's no lack of emergencies — medical, supernatural, and otherwise — at a rural hospital in this horror opus.

Aaron Poole, Kenneth Welsh, Daniel Fathers, Kathleen Munroe, Ellen Wong, Mik Byskov, Art Hindle, Stephanie Belding, James Millington, Evan Stern, Grace Munro, Matt Kennedy, Trish Rainone.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4255304/

Writer-directors Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski started out in Winnipeg film collective Astron-6, whose first features “Manborg” and “Father’s Day” were subversively funny low-budget genre send-ups of dystopian-future action cheese and bad-taste gore horror, respectively. There’s nothing spoofy about their latest, however. “The Void” plays its tale of one hectic night’s bloody peril at a rural hospital relatively straight, which is not to say there’s anything straightforward about the story these Canadians have cooked up. Indeed, after a promising start, this enterprising but overstuffed endeavor drifts increasingly into a muddled sci-fi mystical horror hybrid that only gets more confusing as it grows more thematically ambitious.

At least its failings aren’t formulaic ones — or perhaps they’re the fault of jamming in more fantastic-cinema formula than one modestly scaled film can support. “The Void,” which Screen Media opens on thirty-odd U.S. screens April 7 after a successful festival-circuit run, is a bit of a mess. But in an era when stab-by-numbers remakes and sequels dominate big-screen horror, this resourceful, polished indie merits some admiration simply for trying to do more than it can pull off — not to mention more than most undiscriminating horror fans ask for these days.

The opening finds a couple terrified youths fleeing an isolated house, pursued by two men. The girl never makes it past the lawn, as the latter duo dole her out a nasty, fiery death. The wounded boy manages to escape into the surrounding forest. He’s soon found by the side of the road by local cop Dan Carter (Aaron Poole), who at first assumes James (Evan Stern) is just some drunk kid, then realizes he requires serious medical attention.

Unfortunately, nearest facility March County Hospital is barely open, with just a skeleton crew packing things up for a move to a new building in the wake of a damaging fire. In addition to senior staffer Dr. Powell (Kenneth Walsh), there’s a couple nurses (including Kathleen Munroe as the wife Dan has been separated from since their child died), a hapless intern (Ellen Wong’s Kim), and very few patients, including a nearly-due pregnant woman (Grace Munro).

It doesn’t take long after Dan and James’ arrival for all hell to break loose. Initial stages include violent psychotic episodes and creature mutations, as well as the re-surfacing of the initial homicidal duo (Daniel Fathers, Mik Byskov), who it turns out are actually trying to stop further outbreaks of psychosis, mutation, and who knows what else. With so many terrors within, the logical recourse would be to get as far as way as possible. Alas, the hospital is now surrounded by silent figures clad in what looks like a compromise between KKK robes and hazmat suits. They’re a presence quite ominous enough to dissuade the protagonists’ thoughts of escape, even before they all pull out giant kitchen knives.

Things escalate so quickly and effectively in this early progress that, for at least its first half hour, “The Void” is not only exciting, but has the excitement of a movie whose next moves are anyone’s guess. Too bad that the direction it eventually heads is farther and farther into the imaginative ozone, even as characters wade deeper into the hospital’s bowels. There they discover Dr. Powell has been “defying God,” as well as death and nature, via nightmarish “experiments” that have opened a portal into another dimension.

These sequences retain some atmospheric expertise, as well as providing a few nice climactic cosmic-psychedelic effects. But as it lurches into more Lovecraftian territory, the screenplay becomes an increasingly muddled mix of sci-fi mystical horror whose too many underdeveloped ideas reduce one another’s potency. Perhaps Kostanski and Gillespie got carried away piling on ways to showcase their separate additional skill sets — which include prosthetic makeup and digital FX design, art direction, even music composing. Whatever the reason, somewhere they lost track of the basic cogency required to keep suspense taut and the audience reasonably oriented.

While conceptual clutter has a diminishing effect on the whole, “The Void” is still comprised of a lot of good parts — including a handsome overall look (the nocturnal palate of Samy Inayeh’s widescreen framing vaguely recalls classic John Carpenter), committed performances, sharp editing by Cam McLachlin, and an original soundtrack that’s consistent in its eeriness despite being credited to five separate composing individuals and groups.

Film Review: 'The Void'

Reviewed online, San Francisco, March 24, 2017. Running time: 90 MIN.

Production: (Canada) A Screen Media Films release of a Cave Painting Pictures, JoBro Productions presentation, in association with 120dB Films, XYZ Films. Producers: Casey Walker, Jonathan Bronfman. Executive producers: Todd Brown, David Watson, Jeremy Platt, Stephan Hayes, Peter Graham, Ross M. Dinerstein, James Norrie, Mic Forsey, Lon Molnar, Jeremy Gillespie, Steven Kostanski. Co-producers: Jenifer Pun, Peter Kuplowsky, Racheal Forbes, Colin Geddes, Katarina Gligorijevic, Rosalie Chilelli.

Crew: Directors, writers: Jeremy Gillespie, Steven Kostanski. Camera (color, widescreen, HD): Samy Inayeh. Editor: Cam McLauchlin. Music: Blitz//Berlin, Menalon, Brian Wiacek, Jeremy Gillespie, Lustmord.

With: Aaron Poole, Kenneth Welsh, Daniel Fathers, Kathleen Munroe, Ellen Wong, Mik Byskov, Art Hindle, Stephanie Belding, James Millington, Evan Stern, Grace Munro, Matt Kennedy, Trish Rainone.

More Film

  • DF-10193 – L-R: Ben Hardy (Roger Taylor),

    'Bohemian Rhapsody' Leads MPSE Golden Reel Awards for Sound Editing

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” followed up love from Cinema Audio Society sound mixers with a pair of honors at the Motion Picture Sound Editors’ 66th annual Golden Reel Awards Sunday night. The musical biopic scored wins for dialogue and ADR as well as sound editing in a musical. The film is nominated for sound editing at the Oscars [...]

  • Melissa McCarthy as "Lee Israel" in

    Writers Guild Makes It Official: This Is the Most Wide-Open Oscars Race Ever

    For the record, we’re in uncharted territory this Oscar season. While we still have the costume designers’ ceremony to get through on Tuesday, the Writers Guild Awards put a bow on the major guild kudos circuit Sunday night. The results have yielded what is, unequivocally, the most wide-open Oscar field in history. More Reviews Sundance [...]

  • Melissa McCarthy as "Lee Israel" and

    WGA Awards 2019: 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?,' 'Eighth Grade' Win Screenplay Awards

    In a pair of upsets, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” has won the Writers Guild of America’s adapted screenplay award for Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty and Bo Burnham has won the original screenplay award for “Eighth Grade.” The major television trophies went to “The Americans,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Homeland” and “Barry” for the [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel' No Match for China's 'Wandering Earth' Overseas

    Hollywood movies like “Alita: Battle Angel” and “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” are doing respectable business overseas, but they’re proving no match for foreign titles at the international box office. The Chinese New Year is bringing in huge business in the Middle Kingdom. China’s sci-fi epic “The Wandering Earth” pulled in a [...]

  • ABA_062_DAU_0060_v0409.87501 – Rosa Salazar stars as

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel' Wins Dismal President's Day Weekend

    Fox’s sci-fi adventure “Alita: Battle Angel” dominated in North America, but its opening weekend win isn’t leaving the box office with much to celebrate. Tracking services estimate that this will be one of the lowest grossing President’s Day weekends in years. Ticket sales are on pace to be the smallest bounty for the holiday frame [...]

  • Bohemian Rhapsody

    'Bohemian Rhapsody,' 'Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Among Cinema Audio Society Winners

    Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” won the Cinema Audio Society’s top prize for sound mixing at Saturday night’s 55th annual CAS Awards. The film is Oscar-nominated for sound mixing this year along with “Black Panther,” “First Man,” “Roma” and “A Star Is Born.” In a surprise over heavy-hitters “Incredibles 2” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Wes [...]

  • Oscars Placeholder

    Make-Up and Hair Stylist Guild Applauds Academy's Stance on Airing Every Oscar Winner

    Rowdy boos were followed by triumphant cheers at the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards on Saturday in Los Angeles, as the Hollywood union touched on a week of controversy over a reversed decision to hand out four Oscars during the show’s commercial breaks. Hair and makeup was one of the four categories that would [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content