Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Void (2017) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A police officer, along with the skeleton crew of a hospital, must contend with a strange cult and the creatures they seek to unleash from a hellish dimension.

Review: It feels as though I've been waiting for "The Void" for an eternity, but, finally, YES(!!!), a movie lives up to my expectations. Think of this as a combination of "The Thing," "Prince of Darkness," and "In the Mouth of Madness" fused together to create a new, original sick and twisted abomination. Except, what would have made all those movies even better? Ellen Wong as the icing on the cake! "The Void" demonstrates that, not only can you still make a high-quality film on a paltry budget, but how sorely practical effects are missing in today's film industry. Here, the monsters feel real, threatening, and they look great to boot. On top of that, the story is atmospheric and just that right level of abstract horror to make Lovecraft proud. Man, had this actually come out in the '80s it would be at legendary status by now.

The film gets the ball rolling immediately as we are jumping into the events already in motion. The main character, Carter, is on a routine patrol when he finds an injured man running from pursuers. Taking the injured man to a hospital, Carter must deal with his estranged wife who works there. Shortly thereafter, one of the nurses kills a patient, and the building is surrounded by knife-wielding cultists. After being stabbed by one of the robed weirdos, Carter envisions a bizarre world I will refer to as the void. It would appear that the doctor at this hospital has been performing supernatural experiments on people in order to make their bodies ready to merge with the void. This process creates all manner of tentacled-monsters and other freakish aversions to reality. With the cult members trapping everyone in the hospital, the staff--along with a father/son duo and the remaining patients--must contend with the monsters inside. One of the best parts is when Ms. Wong's character, Kim, is trying to lead Carter and crew to the morgue to rescue his wife, but they realize the hospital itself has transformed similarly to the creatures. Something that really surprised me was that they kill off the wife (sorta). Another cool twist is that this pregnant chick at the hospital was in on the plan and is carrying the doctor's demon-child. Once the doctor has undergone his own transformation, he intends to unleash this baby--which is a giant, bull-sized monstrosity--into the world, unlocking a gateway to the void. However, Carter manages to throw himself and the doctor into the void very reminiscent to the ending of "Prince of Darkness." This closes the gateway...for now...with the only people surviving being Kim (yay) and the son from the duo. The final shot shows Carter, and his wife (somehow alive), stuck inside the void. I'm assuming this was included to hint at a possible sequel which I would absolutely love to see happen.

 Just a taste of the void.

What works tremendously well for "The Void" is the cinematography and special effects. The design of the void itself is grand in both scale and scope, and the filmmakers capture their vision spectacularly especially when considering the budget limitations. The film will genuinely make you feel as though there really are forces in the universe beyond comprehension, and they are right at the edge of crossing into our world. And you don't want those abominations to get too close to you or you become one! Speaking of which, the creatures look fantastic; this is what you get when you mix heart with talent. Sure, there are limitations, and clever lighting is used to hide flaws, but that's how you effectively utilize your budget. I can't believe I've read people criticize these tactics as if cutting your effects altogether is considered more favorable?! The special effects crew have my fullest respect for what they were able to accomplish. Likewise, the music was cool too, however, it did lack a certain '80-ish vibe.

As for the story and characters, I was very impressed by the mythos that was established. There are lots of unanswered questions, but you are given just the right amount of hints and explanations to be satisfied. The pacing definitely helped to engage the audience with these events since things move quickly while still able to show the characters off along the way. True, we could have used more backstory, especially with the father/son duo, but I'm okay with what we got. I'm just glad my girl Ellen Wong made it out alive yet again. As with "Silent Night," it's like they want to kill her character off but spare her because Ms. Wong is too lovable. Besides, ALL movies are made better by a sexy Asian nurse. Finally, I was surprised by how much I liked the doctor villain; his taunting somehow made the events more pressing.

Look at that fucking smirk...oh yeah, I'd love to be a patient at this hospital...monsters or not!

As much as I enjoyed "The Void," I will admit there are certainly flaws that need addressing. While you don't need hand-holding with everything, the ins and outs of how people become these monsters are too shaky. Experiments? Yeah, sorry, that's not cutting it. They could have simply said the void warps reality itself, but that's not clear. Considering the short running time, there was room for some 'splainin' to do, Lucy. Likewise, Carter and his wife needed more fleshing out as to what is going on with their relationship and the drama with their baby that died. I mean, is this why Carter sees the void when others see hallucinations? Come to think of it, why didn't Kim see anything? Why are the void's hallucinations inconsistent? Honestly, the film's flaws are more plot nitpicking, however, one, legitimate detriment is that, frankly, part of the originality is cheapened by how much it is inspired by other films. For me, I see the film as 50/50: original to homage ratio. I see this ratio being much different depending on the audience which could hurt some fans' impression. If any of that makes sense...

Overall, if you're a fan of John Carpenter on any level or just love the glory days of '80s sci-fi horror, then "The Void" will deliver the goods. The usage of practical effects combined with imaginative designs allows for nightmarish creatures to come forth. The entire concept of the void itself is cool and opens up all manner of directions to interpret the story. From the moody lighting to the ambient music lurking in the background, the filmmakers capture that sense of dread where you are wondering what's right around the corner. While there are too many unanswered questions by the end, there shouldn't be anything that completely pulls you out of the story. I definitely recommend checking out "The Void" and maybe--just maybe--we will get a sequel that can expand on things further.

Notable Moment: When Carter first sees visions of the void. Such beautiful and ominous imagery, but, damn, this is disturbingly similar to the kinda shit I dream about especially the giant pyramid-looking thing. I'm unsettled since I've dreamed of these things for decades...

Final Rating: 7.5/10

The last thing I'll touch on is sequel potential since I'm left wanting more. With so much going on in the peripheral, the filmmakers could branch out in countless directions. It was never said the doctor led the cult so we could explore more about who they are and where they came from; that siren needs addressing for sure. It's also unclear how widespread this chaos was considering Carter lost contact with dispatch. Maybe make Kim and the son run into more shenanigans as they leave the hospital or those two could attempt to free Carter and his wife. Or if they need to keep things simple, say that something escaped out of the void during the short period that the gateway was opened, and Kim and the son reluctantly must stop the monsters from spreading.

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