Perhaps one of the most visual and distinctive horror films to be screened at this year’s FANTASTIC FEST is Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski’s visually disturbing and edgy film THE VOID, which played as part of the “midnight madness” selections at the festival. Moving away from the twisted humor of films like FATHER’S DAY and MANBORG, the writers, directors, composers and FX designers Gillespie and Kostanski took a darker storytelling turn as they presented a tale of horror happening to a small town hospital and a patrol officer Daniel Carter who was doing his duty. Played by THE WILL AND TESTMENT OF ROSALIND LEIGH actor Aaron Poole, the film’s simple plot was an unbalanced foundation for the macabre and other worldly atmosphere that infected the screen during the running time.
Truly a show piece for smart creature FX and an experience in the conception of your nightmares, the film begins with Officer Carter picking up a man who seems to have survived a brutal killing in a backwoods house. Unbeknownst to Carter, things are not what they seem as there is a storm on the horizon and a white robed and hooded presence walking in the woods. Upon bringing the man to the hospital, insidious entity follows with a darkness that will consume the hospital and those inside. Giving a small town vibe and feel to the characters, which include hospital employees, a grandfather and granddaughter, town folk, the local authority (played by legendary actor Art Hindle) as well as the attending doctor played by actor Kenneth Welsh and a pair of hunters who are shrouded in murder and mystery. Forming a hell on earth as the followers of this supernatural entity infect and unleash disturbing monsters, we see Gillespie and Kostanski find their own voice with these nightmares. In the scope of the film, you also witness reflections of within the location as well as the creature design with a construction that showcases influences such as Clive Barker and films like SILENT HILL and THE THING.
While it’s not the strongest film of at the festival thus far and lacking a great deal of story development and true character definition, you do see the influences from John Carpenter’s and H.P. Lovecraft’s written brilliance within this developing idea. For me, each character and arc served as much of a purpose as a lamb to the slaughter. Even Poole, who has been a rising star and revelation in many character driven projects seems to be a surface character but a charming and witty one at that. It’s a visual piece of gore and INFERNO-like art coming to life on the screen. It’s most definitely a crowd film, as the connection of watching with other people seems to lead to a group effort to witness an overwhelming supernatural journey in THE VOID. Watching the demons, monsters and summoned creatures come to chilling life on the big screen gave the duo’s work huge scope for me as it felt like the projected embodiment of what it would be in inescapable night of terror. Each of the characters falling into the darkness, the monsters’ unique visual signature as well as disjointed movements in the hospital makes for the darkest night, strung together by colors of hell illuminating its door.
You get your money’s worth with each gasp, eye widening creature movement and tense reaction with THE VOID. Does this film fit every audience?, probably not. It does, however, fit more for gore hounds, practical FX and makeup disciples as well as fans of the early eras,where the visual aspect was the center of each world. Hats off to the sound and score work done for the film as well, which was headed by multiple composing and creating minds including Gillespie whose score is always the pulse of the project. The film engulfed us in the haunted house style through most of the movie not only by the monsters and engulfing set design but by the echoing tones that moved like a spectral presence in each frame, shaking many audience members with having a symbiotic relationship with the evil. Truly a work of love, distinction and terror, it’s an “enter if you dare” type of film, filled with gore and most importantly, madness.