THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
Hell is real. This place is worse. That's a line in the trailer for The Void, and it tells you just about everything you need to know. This horror movie is about a bunch of ordinary people who find themselves teetering on the edge of a nightmarish, soul-sucking other dimension. They don't realize how bad it is until it's too late. Directors Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski previously made the 2012 film Father's Day, an impressively insane homage to the joys of watching old exploitation movies on cable television. This time, they pull back on the tongue-in-cheek, self-referential mayhem in favor of a story that evokes a sense of inescapable doom.
Aaron Poole plays Daniel Carter, a small-town cop. He gives an injured man a lift to the local hospital. The guy spouts nonsense, although it quickly becomes clear that he's referring to the ominous robed people who suddenly surround the building. Who they are and what they want is initially unclear. Then Daniel discovers a horrifying secret inside the hospital, and it becomes apparent that their presence has everything to do with it. During this time, he is plagued by weird hallucinations of dark, roiling skies and eerie celestial images. Daniel has to figure out what this means, while also trying to save the lives of everyone else in the hospital, including his estranged wife Allison (Kathleen Munroe).
There are no spoilers in the preceding paragraph. The Void is one of those movies where you don't want to know too much about it before going in. Not that there are huge jaw-dropping plot twists or anything it's just much more fun when you don't know where the story is going from one minute to the next. The film starts off seeming like a certain kind of horror movie, and then it becomes a different kind of horror movie without sacrificing the first kind. Then it becomes a third kind of horror movie, without sacrificing either of the first two.
Perhaps a better way of explaining it is to point out some of the influences. The work of John Carpenter is clearly a big one. At times, The Void plays like a modern Assault on Precinct 13. Both movies have characters confined in a building with hostile forces outside. Later, it plays like The Thing, with a bunch of people getting stalked by an enemy in their midst. (There are some primo Thing-like practical effects, too.) It finally winds its way to a third act that is inspired by all kinds of Hell-on-Earth horror flicks.
This is not to say that the movie is a ripoff of Carpenter's work, or anyone else's, for that matter. In fact, the way Gillespie and Kostanski spin their influences into something new is impressive. So is the way they meld overt horror with a more mysterious vibe. Moments in The Void are very graphic and gory, but then there are scenes in which Daniel sees those bizarre images that give the movie its name. Those sequences have a more quiet power, as it becomes evident that he's catching glimpses of as the tagline promises someplace even worse than Hell. Shots of vast expanses of space feel threatening, as though the endlessness of them is itself a weapon.
There's plenty of tension and menace here, which ensures that the film delivers the goods in the horror realm. A few minor stumbles exist elsewhere. In moments, some of the performances are a little unconvincing, and The Void has a couple spots where the narrative could have been a touch more clear. There is, for example, a big why regarding the story's events. It's so intriguing that you may wish it would be expanded upon further.
For the most part, though, The Void is a chilling movie which dares to envision a place so dark and unrelentingly grim that, for those sucked into it, Hell seems desirable in comparison. That's one heck of a powerful thought for a horror movie. This one does enough with it to be wickedly entertaining and disturbing in all the right ways.
( out of four)
The Void is unrated, but contains strong language and graphic violence. The running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes.
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