Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Movie Review: The Void

The Void * ½ / *****
Directed by: Jeremy Gillespie & Steven Kostanski.   
Written by: Jeremy Gillespie & Steven Kostanski.
Starring: Aaron Poole (Daniel Carter), Kenneth Welsh (Dr. Richard Powell), Daniel Fathers (The Father), Kathleen Munroe (Allison Fraser), Ellen Wong (Kim), Mik Byskov (The Son), Art Hindle (Mitchell), Stephanie Belding (Beverly), James Millington (Ben), Evan Stern (James), Grace Munro (Maggie), Matthew Kennedy (Cliff Robertson).

 Is there anything more disappointing than a horror movie that starts off strong and then flies off the rails as it moves along? It’s always difficult when making a horror movie when you have to explain everything you’ve setup, as there are so many ways for things to go wrong, and just a few for them to go right. The Void is a movie where it’s hard to imagine things flying off the rails more horribly then they do here. What starts out an effective horror movie, with many intriguing questions, ends in just about the silliest way imaginable. Worse still, the further the film movies along, the duller it becomes.
The film opens with a strange scene – two young people, a man and a woman fleeing a house, only to be followed by two men who shoot at them – hitting the woman, but missing the man. They then set the dying (hopefully dead) woman on fire, and go after the man, who has gone fleeing into the woods. Before they can find him though, local deputy Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole) does – as the man is now unconscious on the side of the road. He races to the nearest hospital, which is almost deserted since everyone is being transferred to another hospital. Among the only people there is Carter’s wife, Allison (Kathleen Monroe) – although they are currently separated – who is a nurse, alongside Dr. Powell (Kenneth Walsh), the kind of small town doctor who knows everyone, and a few other people. Daniel isn’t there long before strange things start to happen inside the hospital, and a bunch of masked “cult” members surround the hospital, although they make no effort to get inside. Two people who do try are the two men we saw at the beginning of the film, who killed the woman, and the tried to kill the patient. What follows is bloody as hell, and involves all sorts of horror movie clichés, although saying more would be to give the whole game away, so I’ll stop.
That setup, described above, is pretty effective. No, it’s not original – it borrows heavily from various John Carpenter movies - notably Assault on Precinct 13, which had to find a convoluted way to make sure a normally busy building would be all but deserted. It will borrow from other Carpenter movies as well as it progresses, but not in ways that are ever particularly original. There is a difference between something like Adam Wingard’s The Guest – which is also heavily indebted to Carpenter, which takes the influence of Carpenter and spins it into its own thing, and a film like The Void, which doesn’t. You keep waiting for the film to do something more, to say something more, to be about something more than the fact the filmmakers like John Carpenter, and it never really gets there.
The film was written and directed by Jeremy Gillespie & Steven Kostanski, a couple of filmmakers who work in other, smaller roles on bigger films (like Suicide Squad, where Gillespie was in the art department, and Kostanski was in the makeup department). Both also have visual effects experience as well. As craftsman, they are fine. The early part of the film is quite well handled, as it gradually builds the suspense – and even the first big effects special is okay as well, even if we don’t know what we’re seeing and it drags on too long, it works well.
As screenwriters though, I’m not really sure they know what they’re doing. They kind of write themselves into a corner, and then have to find a way out – a way to explain all the strange things that happened. They do explain it – but in a way that makes everything impossible to take seriously. The film becomes more and more outlandish, but also duller. The filmmaker abandon trying to build suspense, and just let out an orgy of cheap looking effects. In short, it doesn’t work. The Void is a film I wanted to like – and did for at least the first third. After that, it gets silly and dull.

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