The Void film review: monsters, madness and dread

It’s Lovecraftian hell in a hospital in indie horror The Void

There are legions of filmmakers paying homage to John Carpenter’s slasher movies at the moment, so it’s nice to see a movie that nods to his Apocalypse trilogy and his love of HP Lovecraft. The two biggest touchstones for Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski’s The Void seem to be Assault On Precinct 13 and Prince Of Darkness, and while that’s an ambitious mix, they pull it off.

A man flees from a farmhouse pursued by two killers and runs into cop Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole), who takes him to the run-down local hospital. No sooner is this mysterious victim squared away than a terrifying transformation begins in some of the few remaining doctors, nurses and patients. Things get worse when a group of armed figures in masks arrive, but they don’t want to get in. They want to keep Carter and his friends from getting out…

Gillespie and Kostanski (two members of Canadian filmmaking troupe Astron-6, who gave us Manborg) take their material very seriously indeed. From the arresting opening through to the gruesome finale, they keep things moving at a deliberate pace punctuated with some truly excellent practical effects that become increasingly nightmarish as the film goes on.

However, it’s not all about the monsters. As is only right and proper for a Lovecraft tribute, there are characters driven mad by their desire to know too much, and there’s the inevitable uneasy truce between cops and crooks that you’d find in the bulk of Carpenter’s back catalogue. The directors make the most of their creepy location and their background in effects, and the atmosphere of tension and dread grows and grows.

Poole proves to be a very capable lead, Kathleen Munroe is solid as the doctor who also happens to be his ex, and there’s a nice cameo from horror veteran Art Hindle (Black Christmas, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers) as a no-bullshit cop. Best of the lot, though, is the great Kenneth Welsh (Twin Peaks Season Two’s big bad Windom Earle) as Dr Richard Powell, though we won’t go into too much detail about why.

The pacing and gloomy atmosphere may put off some viewers who showed up purely for the poster’s promise of tentacle monsters, but The Void is a creepy, tense and gory tribute to the horror master that offers invention and wit beyond mere homage, and we recommend it.