Review: The Void (2016)

A fist full of Cthulhu.

Void. “A completely empty space”… according to a quick Google search. Well, not so much, when it comes to art. In fact many an artist, whether it be in words, paint, sound, or pictures, have tried to fill it since mankind slithered out of the primordial soup eons ago. The attraction may be it is the blankest canvas of them all. And possibly the darkest…

The Void is the latest leap into the “empty space”, which lands chin deep in B-movie tentacle stew. Cooked up from the minds of Jeremy Gillespie and Steve Kostanski, both on writing and directing duties, and pretty much everything else. Their backgrounds are in art direction and practical effects, and they deftly handle the practical “Lovecraftian” creatures and blood splatter; lovingly dished up from the pages of a John Carpenter inspired recipe book.

The story begins at the dead of night with police officer Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole) finding James (Evan Stern) bloody and blacked-out on an old dusty road. In short order, the pair head to the local hospital on the verge of being mothballed because of a lack of patients. Oh, the irony. They meet nurse Allison Fraser (Kathleen Munroe) and a small group of local cannon fodder (the pregnant teen, the old-buffer, the spunky intern), all on tenterhooks at the arrival of the mysterious stranger. It takes the assured hand of veteran doctor Richard Powell (Kenneth Welsh) to settle everyone down, and soothe the marital tension between Daniel and Allison; still reeling from the stillbirth of their child. The old sawbones feels their pain. His daughter died, many years ago. It was hard on him, maybe a little too hard. Still all is calm and quiet…

Until, a sick young man is butchered in his hospital bed by a seemingly deranged night-nurse. The flood gates of gore burst open. Daniel shoots her dead. But within minutes, her body reanimates into a big tentacle beastie. In the ensuing chaos, it becomes clear James knows more about the creature’s origins than he’s letting on. The events between the lo-fi and viscerally charged set-pieces are often unexplained and sometimes baffling. But the true hardcore horror fan inside me felt there was more than enough splatter to paper over the story’s schlocky cracks of undercooked occultism, ritual sacrifice, and alien rebirth. Okay, others may be less forgiving, and yearn for the craft and polish of a major studio creature feature; more often than not, they’re neutered, lacking real charm and proper squelch. Not so here: it’s a do-it-yourself Cthulhu barbecue!

The final curtain looms large, Daniel teams up with a scrappy father (Daniel Fathers) and son (Mik Byskov); all with a score to settle. They hunt down one of their own, transformed, blue skinned, and demonically possessed. The hospital’s long corridors, empty wards, and dark subterranean basement make for a fitting battleground; every inch of the building oozes with monster mayhem. The ending is a strange and breathless affair. The void is finally revealed in all of its surreal glory, and it is a mostly satisfying way to conclude things.

The real void in the story turns out to be the characters, as not one of them stands out. They all play second fiddle to their tentacled counterparts – the real stars of the show. And the directors by their own admission have called the script serviceable, I’d say that was a fair assessment. Far from a disaster, The Void fills the space between forgettable and cult classic.

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