In the middle of a night shift, country police officer Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole) comes across an injured and bloodied young man, James (Evan Stern), on the edge of a forest. Bundling him into the back of his car, he races him off to the local hospital, which is running a skeleton staff due to a recent fire. On reaching the hospital it transpires that James is being pursued by a mysterious knife-wielding cult, dressed in white hooded robes. They lay siege to the hospital while Daniel and the staff, including his estranged wife, Allison (Kathleen Munroe), must find a way out.
And so begins The Void, cosmic horror lovingly crafted, or Lovecrafted if you will, by Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie, taking inspiration from horror greats like John Carpenter and a certain seminal horror writer.
The absolute best thing about The Void is that it is a straight-up horror movie. No concession to post-Scream meta nonsense, no invitations to the audience to laugh tongue-in-cheek; it takes itself and the universe it has created completely seriously, and that is the key to a good horror movie.
To get the Carpenter references out of the way, we’ll start with the hospital. Sparsely populated thanks to a fire, and then besieged by white-cloaked, black triangle-decorated madmen, the set-up is straight out of Assault on Precinct 13. But, to clarify, The Void is inspired by Precinct 13 in the same way that Precinct 13 was itself inspired by Rio Bravo, and once this nice set-up is established, The Void follows more of its own occult-horror path. The otherworldly dreams, suggested dimensions and cults gathering at the front door also give things a bit of a Prince of Darkness vibe.
The Void is also as much of a love letter to the likes of Stuart Gordon and his peerless gloopy body horror as it is Carpenter, although this could merely be a symptom of the fact Lovecraft is a touchstone for all of them. Nevertheless, the interdimensional, cosmic aspects of the cult and the symbiotic body mangling of the creatures definitely implies affection for Gordon’s From Beyond.
Performances are good all round. Poole hits all the right notes as a small-town cop trying to do the right thing. Kenneth Welsh excels as Dr. Powell and Mik Byskov does well in a dialogue-free role as The Son. Also worth mentioning is the great Ellen Wong as student nurse Kim.
The Void also gives us a nice line in disgusting practical effects work, which is quite often the make-or-break factor in a modern horror pic. In-camera, practical effects are the preference of gore aficionados and genre fans everywhere, and seeing as the The Void knows this, we get lots of blood and guts and viscera. Lumpen, Chthonic shapes clamber out the shadows to attack the survivors, turning human beings into blobs of bloated, tentacled flesh.
Another thing The Void gets exactly right is the striking cult iconography. A simple black triangle is all it takes. From the satanic-looking diagrams painted on the hospital floors, to the faces of the cult members’ robes, it is used to great effect. The hooded cult members are dehumanised and terrifying as they stalk the hospital in their pristine white cloaks, daggers hidden amongst the folds.
If there are a couple of minor faults, then those less pre-disposed toward 80s horror/sci-fi might point to the plot being a little light and hard to understand in places; and if homage goes too far on occasion, then it takes the shape of a villain with more than a passing resemblance to Hellraiser’s Frank. There’s also a quite shameless riff on Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond (a.k.a. 7 Doors of Death). However, The Void racks up enough goodwill on its own merits, and its dedication to a classic horror template, that we can forgive the little indulgences.
The Void is not trying to break new ground. It is an unapologetic horror movie in the style of certain genre classics, and it has enough of its own thing going on to avoid being a mere exercise in nostalgia. For those raised on the horror movies of the 80s, who idolise the likes of Carpenter, Gordon et al, The Void hits the spot.
THE REEL SCORE: 8/10