The Void (2016)

The Void first published by VODzilla.co

Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski, the writer/director team behind The Void, are also two of the five personnel in Astron-6, a collective of Canadian filmmakers who specialise in closely parodying the very best worst aspects of Eighties genre cinema. You can see their hilarious handiwork in the Father’s Day (2011), Manborg (2011) and the brilliant ‘W is for Wish‘ segment in ABCs of Death 2 (2014), while two other Astron-6 members, Adam Brooks and Matthew Kennedy, perfectly skewered the tropes of giallo in The Editor (2014).

The Void is something new for them. Sure, it is still as steeped as all their other films in the lore of Reagan-era genre gestures, but this time their pastiche is played straight rather than for laughs – and the result is a kaleidoscope of retrospective motifs that seem both familiar yet distant. If the plot revolves around an attempt to open a transdimensional portal to an ancient world, then the film too offers fragmentary, paradoxical glimpses back into an era that, though long since past, still has a sinister influence on the world of today’s cinema. In other words, like James Gunn’s Slither (2006) or Panos Cosmatos’ Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010), this is a modern artefact that conjures the spirit of bygone films, recycling their different parts into something that is perhaps disposable, but that also feels like a refined quintessence of wayward nostalgia. For in unlocking a gateway to the hell of Eighties genre cinema, The Void transforms itself into an idealised avatar of receding memories and times lost.

After encountering an injured man (Evan Stern) on a country road at night, Officer Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole) rushes him to the nearest hospital. About to be closed due to recent fire damage, the hospital is being run by a skeleton staff – including Daniel’s wife Alison (Kathleen Munroe), estranged from him ever since they lost a baby in childbirth, and Dr Richard Powell (Kenneth Walsh), also grieving the death of a daughter. As an army of silent, knife-wielding figures in Ku Klux Klan robes beleaguers the building from the outside, and some of the people on the inside start mutating into tentacular creatures, it is not clear which phase of John Carpenter’s career we have entered – Assault of Precinct 13 from 1976, or The Thing from 1982. Yet by the time Daniel has ventured deep into the building’s basement morgue in search of the missing Alison, and borne witness to the Lovecraftian madness beneath the hospital, The Void has been filled with references to everything from Hellraiser (1987) to Dead & Buried (1981), and from Phantasm (1979) via Re-Animator (1985) to The Beyond (1981).

 So, from its practical effects work to its reclaimed plotting, the film resurrects genre’s dead parts by cultically metamorphosing them into a monstrous hybrid of the primordial and the new. The Void is, of course, derivative to a fault, and perhaps as empty as its title suggests – but for ninety minutes, it transports the viewer out of this world to a rarefied space of weird wonders half-remembered from childhood, while showing that horror’s future is always rooted in the past.

Summary: Silly but serious, The Void is a straight-faced pastiche of late Seventies/early Eighties genre manoeuvres, and a cult film about a cult.

© Anton Bitel