Some people watch horror movies because they like feeling uneasy. Some like to be scared. And some others just want to see a whole lotta blood and guts. While The Void might struggle to check off those first two boxes, it most certainly covers the third. The new horror film from directing duo Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski is a blood-soaked “trapped in a house” romp that plays out like a malfunctioning funhouse ride. For fans of physical makeup and puppet effects The Void is a glorious throwback to the horror classics of yore, but for viewers looking for a coherent story or believable characters, abandon all hope ye who enter here.
Aaron Poole stars as Daniel Carter, a small town cop dozing through a nightshift when he stumbles upon a wounded young man running through the forest. After rushing him to the nearest hospital (a partially burned down country building that just happens to be the place Carter’s ex-wife works as a nurse) Carter endeavours to find out what the man was running from. He doesn’t have to wait long however, as a rifle-touting country outlaw named Vincent (Daniel Fathers) and his silent companion Simon (Mik Byskov) arrive, searching for the runaway. While the hospital’s only doctor (Kenneth Welsh), Carter’s aforementioned ex-wife Allison (Kathleen Munroe) and a bored intern named Kim (Ellen Wong) attempt to keep the peace, a group of mysterious figures in white robes appear outside the doors. It quickly becomes clear that they don’t want to break in, they’re more worried about something breaking out.
As the hospital slowly devolves into bloody chaos so does the story. Gillespie and Kostanski made their names in art direction and makeup effects respectively, so when heads need to be crushed or chests need to burst the film nails it, however their choice to pen the screenplay was a mistake. The film suffers from a lack of clarity from the beginning. While it seems the pair may have been repeating to themselves “show don’t tell” as they wrote the script…you’ve got to tell us something. The causes of events are left vague or go absolutely unexplained. Characters shout over each other and motives are muddled. Backstories are introduced and then abandoned. Adding to the confusion is the fact that there isn’t really a likeable character to cheer for. Aaron Poole seems woefully miscast as the cynical cop, but that may be more an effect of the dialogue. Kathleen Munroe and Ellen Wong’s characters are interesting but underdeveloped. Kenneth Welsh provides some veteran presence, but even he can’t bring much depth to the mysterious Dr. Richard Powell.
The film actually becomes more fun with the less sense it makes. As the characters attempt to discover the dark secret behind the terrible events transpiring all around them they descend into the hospital’s burnt out basement. What transpires is a horror thrill ride that will have John Carpenter fans whooping in the aisles. But, I couldn’t help wondering what it’s all for? The film’s hellish conclusion seems like it would be so much more fun had I cared about the characters. The Void has all the logic of a carnival funhouse, and all the charisma of the spring-loaded animatronics inside. Like the bleak oblivion at the end of being…I was left cold and empty.
Reviewed by Evan Arppe.