A Room. Sitting on a sofa is a young couple – let’s call them Toby and Charmaine. They’re staring listlessly at a TV screen. Toby has a PlayStation 4 controller and is currently cycling through Netflix to watch something.
Toby: How about a comedy?
Charmaine: Adam Sandler is everywhere. Why does he still make films?
Toby: Do you want to watch The Cobbler?
Charmaine: I’d rather go into the kitchen, boil some water in a pan, put some rusty spoons in the pan once it’s boiled and then in one quick fluid motion jab the spoons into my eyes and out through the back of my skull.
Toby: Not Adam Sandler, then.
Charmaine: Does he have a share in Netflix or something? Does he…own Netflix?
Toby: It’s possible.
[Beat.] Toby starts scrolling through the films at a rapid pace. Nothing seems to be worth watching. The silence descending upon the room is palpable.
Toby: How about an action film?
Charmaine: They haven’t made a decent action film since Die Hard.
Toby: Oooh, how about Liam Neeson in –
Charmaine: No. How many times can your daughter be kidnapped? That’s just negligence.
Charmaine: I’ve seen most of them.
Toby: There’s one about this murderer –
Charmaine: Since Silence of The Lambs it’s been an unspoken law that all serial killers must be depicted as sophisticated geniuses with an empathetic streak that solve a Rubix cube whilst simultaneously stir-frying people’s brains. The fact is most serial killers are mentalists that babble down the phone to the talking clock every half hour. No.
[Silence.] The TV emits clicks as Toby swipes through the carousel of shows and films. He’s starting to sweat now – he refuses to binge watch episodes of The Big Bang Theory just because it’s something on in the background.
Charmaine: Uuuugh. Is it a ghost film? I hate ghost films – only imbeciles believe in them. You might as well be frightened of Unicorns. Or midgets.
Toby: Let me see…
Charmaine: Oh! Actually…Do they have Ghost? With Patrick Swayze?
Toby: Uum…No. That was taken off last month.
Toby has an idea. It’s like a light going off in his head – he looks up to see the single bulb in the room flickering. It’s just bad wiring.
Toby: Actually, there’s a trailer for a horror film that’s come out recently and I want to check it out. Have you ever felt that a film was made for you? It has practical effects, it’s gory, influenced by surrealist and cosmic
Influences like H.P. Lovecraft, John Carpenter, Clive Barker and Lucio Fulci.
Charmaine: (narrows eyes, looking at Toby suspiciously) This won’t be like that really crap film you made me watch the other week, will it?
Toby: (can see that Charley may relent) Apparently it’s like The Thing!
Charmaine: (still suspicious) I like The Thing.
Toby: (A near hysterical Toby tries not to show his child-like glee of wearing Charley down to watch his reccomedation) I know. This has tentacle monsters in it.
Charmaine: Like Hentai Porn?
Toby: Hmmm…not sure.
Charmaine: What’s it called?
Toby: The Void
Charmaine: As in the space between your ears?
Charaine: Christ, just put it on. At least we want be sitting here flicking through Netflix for the next three hours.
Toby realises that The Void is not on Netflix at the moment and spends the next half an hour trying to find it either as download or as Video On Demand.
Charmaine: This better be good, otherwise I’m going to drop-kick you in the dick.
Toby plays the film, feeling a mixture of anxiety, sensual arousal and a sudden craving for calamari.
I was sure that indie horror movie “The Void” was definitely for me. The trailer seemed to be a throwback to all things 80’s horror-tastic; a classic Carpenter siege movie plot, paying homage to ‘Assault on Precinct 13’ juxtaposed with elements of ‘Prince of Darkness.’ Sign me up because I’m already on board for that. Practical effects taking a front seat on this roller coaster ride too – with effects being compared to Rob Bottin’s extraordinary macabre achievements in ‘The Thing’ – so the prospect of that left me drooling in anticipation. Paying tribute to the works of H.P. Lovecraft and Clive Barker in its phantasm setting? Oh, tell me more. Gore, monsters and cultists? Take my damn money already.
What could go wrong?
Written and directed by Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski (two members of the filmmaking collective known as Astron-6), The Void sees Rookie Cop Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole) driving an injured man to a local hospital. Once there, a group of people find themselves under siege by an army of white-robed, dagger-wielding cultists. Supporting characters include a pregnant girl and her grandfather, the Rookie Cop’s (ex?) wife, a nonchalant trainee junior nurse (Remember Knives Chau from Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World? Knives is all grown up now – awwww) a doctor and two hillbilly types, one that’s as angry as hell and isn’t going to take it anymore and the other that never utters a single word in the entirety of the film. This was Kickstarted via crowd funding so maybe they didn’t have enough money to pay the guy or he had a weird Joe Pasquale voice that shredded the vibe of what they were going for.
Rookie Cop Daniel and injured guy (didn’t catch his name at any point in the film, sorry) are not in the hospital very long before white robed cultists surround the building and stand motionless outside. Any attempt to leave is met with sharp knives being swished in the general direction of their faces. The story then breaks into supernatural territory as possessed patients and demons start springing up and picking off the cast. There’s a reason for this (cough EVIL SATANIC DOCTOR ARCHETYPE cough) and there’s fresh phantasmagorical B-Movie shenanigans to begin with, but The Void starts slipping and is bungled by poor dialogue and uninteresting characters. A lot of the time the characters revert to SHOUTING IN THEIR LOUD VOICES to emphasise that there’s tension on screen, but after hearing people shout continuously for ten minutes the brain starts to tune out. Aaron Poole is the standout actor here, giving a compelling portrayal of someone in a ‘in-over-their-head’ situation but rising to the challenge to make it out alive. The only other character that I really cared about was Ellen Wong’s trainee nurse – her interactions/nonchalance is what made me like her – it’s just a shame that everyone else came off as looking like Bisto Chicken stock characters that we’ve seen time and time again.
Forgettable supporting characters seem to be tapping their feet, waiting for their onscreen death to arrive, which begs the question whether this film was actually made for the sole purpose of establishing Kostanaski and Gillespie’s skills as horror film makers, or whether they wanted to actually say anything with this film. There’s a scene in the hospital corridor when the first ‘monster’ reveals itself and we get to see some of the practical effects on display – tentacles shudder and shake manically as if Cthulhu itself were competing in an electric boogaloo dance-off; the monster’s back rips open to reveal another manifestation of its carapace and there’s a sense of menace and dread, but at the same time it looks like a guy with thirty loads of washing piled around his body – it just looks like…a mass. There are no real defining qualities about it. There’s also a scene later in the film where our group of SHOUTY people get to the morgue and are surrounded by (Zombies? Ghouls?) and apart from one stand out prosthetic upper torso/head piece that repeatedly smashes its already caved in face to a piece of rebar captures a fragment of what I believe the creators were setting out to achieve – hell on earth.
Preposterous monsters leak out of the shadows, more people die and the thinly conceived plot trundles on towards a formulaic, cynical and quite notably above all else, boring end. You won’t really care who survives and the main protagonist’s plight of saving his (ex?) wife feels like an expositional device more than anything else. I also didn’t feel like the film was unhinged enough to hold my attention. If you’re making a film about a dimensional gateway to hell, you need to really bring the party to the table. You can subvert nostalgic expectation only so far – you need to be able to fuel my imagination and let my brain create a picture. You need to give me something new that I can salivate over and chew on. Unfortunately I didn’t feel that with the end result of ‘The Void.’ It’s hard to get upset about this type of movie because it’s a pale imitation of better films already out there – like a young, inexperienced artist tracing over their mentor’s drawings – don’t go in expecting to see a better, shiner version of The Thing, or Hellraiser. Just go in expecting to see a B-Movie horror show and you should be fine. I’m sure we’ll see refinement and better things in the future from team Astron-6, so I hope to see engaging characterisation and plot in the near future.
Review by Anthony Self
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