Assault on Precinct 13 meets The Thing is likely how Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski, creators of the new horror-thriller The Void, pitched their project. It’s an apt description, though perhaps a little too apt: one seldom sees cinematic influences worn so firmly on the sleeve, so indebted to one particular filmmaker. And yet, while some may call its pastiche outright plagiarism, it doesn’t necessarily detract from the individual moments of effectiveness in this gory creature feature, which uses practical, fleshy effects to augment its B-movie horror scenario.
One evening, while on patrol, police offer Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole) comes across a gibbering junkie, covered in blood that may or may not be his own. He takes him to the local hospital, recently affected by a fire, which boasts a skeleton crew and a few straggling patients. One nurse is Allison (Kathleen Munroe), Daniel’s estranged wife; their relationship fractured after they lost an unborn child. Yet he is followed by a series of figures wearing white sheets – with distinctive black triangles on their faces – who surround the hospital, cutting off contact with the outside world and allowing no escape. And “escape” is precisely what’s on the survivors’ minds, particularly when some of them begin experiencing disturbing mental – and physical – transformations.
Characterisation is present but light, mostly accomplished through vague expositional dialogue that makes it difficult to care about any of the characters. The rules of the horror, too, are somewhat inconsistent: some characters are compelled to slice the skin off their own face, whereas others experience visions that abate rather quickly. And while the story is admirably unpredictable, it runs out of steam by the 60 minute mark, as the filmmakers realise they have forgotten to include a third act.
Still, there are images here as disturbing as anything from David Cronenberg, or the better entries in Konami’s Silent Hill franchise. Gillespie and Kostanski have worked in the art department on films like Pacific Rim, and there is something far more effective about their use of squishy, pulsating physical effects here than the standard CGI beasties that inhabit most horror films – all writhing tentacles and snapping, gnarled limbs, supported by a groaning sound mix. This should be more than enough to satiate its target audience’s bloodlust, though The Void is still a long way away from matching the coherence and vision of the films it has absorbed into its DNA.
The Void is released in selected cinemas on 31st March 2017.
Watch the trailer for The Void here: