The Void

The Void comes out of the gate surprisingly strong, and so that might be why it is equally surprising that, as the film grows sillier, it also becomes less interesting. The reason for this is a bit complicated, because this is material that should, by all means, work. The film is a throwback to the heyday of outlaw sci-fi of the 1980s (Think of the films directed by John Carpenter or even David Cronenberg). It features really strong, practical effects in an era that has been overrun by digital effects that often look rubbery and indistinctive. Indeed, one can kind of detect that, if the filmmakers had gone down that route, the outcome would have been laughable. The decision to use practical effects is a refreshing one, but unfortunately that's the only thing the feels fresh in writers/directors Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski's film.

That strong start might be due to solid character work early on: Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole) is a police officer in a lazy small town who stumbles upon a man on the side of the road, seemingly drunk and unresponsive to any attempt to communicate with him. The man is James (Evan Stern), and the prologue gets us to the point of his interception by way of a mysterious bloodbath in a backwoods house. Vincent (Daniel Fathers) and the mute Simon (Mik Byskov) pursue their quarry to the local hospital, at which Carter deposits James in the care of his ex Allison (Kathleen Munroe), a nurse. Also present in the waiting room are a pregnant woman (Grace Munro) and her grandfather, and on the hospital staff are Dr. Powell (Kenneth Welsh), Kim (Ellen Wong), and Beverly (Stephanie Belding). Hooded figures with knives surround the hospital.

We become accustomed to the energy of the cast, filled with actors who know how to play this material at just the right note short of hamminess, especially Welsh, to remain appealing. That comes in handy when the plot shifts wildly into utter lunacy, and at that shift is when any appeal is lost and all of that good will disappears in a wisp. Again, this shouldn't be the case: The film morphs from a character-driven thriller set in a remote location to a senseless creature feature with impressive abandon, then proceeds to accomplish almost nothing with its plot that isn't reversed by the third act. There follows a period of 45 minutes that features a lot of repetitive wheel-spinning that is disheartening. The characters enter a routine of attempting to kill an amorphous blob of a creature (quite the freakish thing, this, although its physiology doesn't make much sense except as a way to provide a lot of targets for buckshot), then discuss the fact that they cannot rid of it, then try again to no avail.

That cycle continues without an ounce of insight into the characters or growth in the forward motion of the plot until a third act that does away with a large portion of the cast and enters into an occultic obsession with a place known as "the Abyss" (which is the actual void of the title, although it's less a void or an abyss than something else entirely). One character's fate is retconned into another, more grotesque form of existence, and the production design and cinematography become the focus as an underground lair is introduced. Humanoid creatures, gut-wrenching sacrifices, an ominous final shot that raises more questions than I cared to have answers to them - in the end, The Void resembles the monster in its middle section: It doesn't make much sense structurally, and it's kind of its own amorphous blob. This is a movie that doesn't know what it wants to be.

Film Information

Aaron Poole (Daniel), Kathleen Munroe (Allison), Daniel Fathers (Vincent), Mik Byskov (Simon), Kenneth Welsh (Dr. Powell), Evan Stern (James), Ellen Wong (Kim), Grace Munro (Maggie), Art Hindle (Mitchell), Stephanie Belding (Beverly).

Directed and written by Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski.

No MPAA rating.

90 minutes.

Released in select cities on April 7, 2017.

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