'The Void': Film Review

The Void - Still 1 - Screen Media - H 2017
Courtesy of Screen Media Films
Retro-gore aplenty in a package well suited to genre freaks.

Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski get in touch with their inner John Carpenter in a fanboy-friendly horror film.

One of the more action-packed features to come from the current crop of John Carpenter-inspired filmmakers, The Void finds collaborators Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski going much further than many of their peers: Where others might relish an hour or so of slow-build retro mood that leads to a single horrific set piece, these writer/directors graft enough plot for three different varieties of 1980s drive-in flicks into a single film. The result should find admirers among the fanboy crowd, raising the stakes for the team's next feature, even if it has little crossover potential.

Aaron Poole plays Daniel Carter, a small-town sheriff whose beat is interrupted one night when a stranger emerges from the woods, badly beaten and traumatized by something he has seen. He takes the young man to the closest hospital, which is in the process of closing down and is manned by a skeleton crew — including Daniel's estranged wife Allison (Kathleen Munroe), a doctor, and the town's old G.P., Dr. Powell (Kenneth Welsh).

Daniel and Allison have barely started the isn't-this-awkward? dance when things heat up: Members of a weird cult, all dressed in hooded robes with black triangles where the faces should be, surround the hospital and wield nasty daggers on anyone trying to leave. Inside, something even scarier is happening. People start to go violently insane, then turn into icktastic, rapidly morphing monsters that attack humans with enough violence to satisfy just about any Fangoria subscriber.

Viewers who know enough to compare this shape-shifting monster (evidently made entirely with practical effects, not CGI) with the one lurking in Carpenter's The Thing will certainly also connect the more reality-based hospital-under-siege side of the film to his Assault on Precinct 13. If Gillespie and Kostanski don't quite wring the maximum amount of tension from either aspect here, it's largely because their real interest is in yet another source of scares: the eponymous "void," the object of occult activity by a madman who has created a veritable house of horrors underneath the hospital.

What this all lacks in cohesiveness it makes up for in sincerity, with cast and crew intent on exploring a world that is built upon, not built to emulate, those encountered in '80s genre cinema. An ambiguous final sequence furthers the impression that the filmmakers hope to conjure something bigger even than their own imaginations can fully describe.

Production companies: Cave Painting Pictures, JoBro Productions
Distributor: Screen Media Films
Cast: Aaron Poole, Kathleen Munroe, Ellen Wong, Kenneth Welsh, Evan Stern, Daniel Fathers, Grace Munroe
Directors-Screenwriters: Jeremy Gillespie, Steven Kostanski
Producers: Jonathan Bronfman, Casey Walker
Executive producers: Todd Brown, Ross M. Dinerstein, James Norrie, Jeremy Platt, David Watson
Director of photography: Samy Inayeh
Production designer: Henry Fong
Costume designer: Tisha Myles
Editor: Cam McLauchlin
Composers: Blitz/Berlin, Joseph Murray, Menalon Music, Lodewijk Vos
Casting directors: Van Echeverri, Casey Walker

90 minutes