Another entry into the ever growing cannon of Canadian Body Horror, 2016’sTHE VOID blew us away when it appeared after much hype and sold out festival showings. From writer-directors Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski, who started out in Winnipeg film collective Astron-6, their first features “Manborg” and “Father’s Day” were subversively funny low-budget send-ups of dystopian-future trash and bad-taste gore horror, earning them early praise and enough buzz to Kickstarter The Void, an ode to otherworldly horrors in the style of H.P. Lovecraft.
The opening finds two terrified kids fleeing a rural Canadian farm house in the desolate night, chased by two burly men. The girl never makes it past the lawn, as the duo hand her a nasty, fiery fate. The boy manages to escape into the surrounding forest. He’s soon spotted by the side of the road by local cop Carter (Aaron Poole), who at first assumes James (Evan Stern) is just a drunk kid, but soon realizes he requires serious medical attention. Unfortunately, the only nearby Hospital is barely open, with a skeleton crew packing things up for a move to a new building in the wake of a fire. In addition to the soon-retiring Dr. Powell (Twin Peaks own Kenneth Walsh in a literally jaw dropping turn), there’s Carters estranged wife (Kathleen Munroe) and a few doleful patients, including a nearly-due pregnant teen (Grace Munro).
But these things often happen in the world of Horror, and The Void is no exception: the hospital is soon surrounded by silent, hooded cultists with very sharp knives…and then things get REALLY weird. After a violent psychotic eye-gouging and a few creature mutations, it’s clear something is afoot within the Hospital itself, and the intro’s apparently homicidal duo (Daniel Fathers, Mik Byskov) return. It turns out are they actually trying to stop further outbreaks of transmutation, and as our characters descend into the Hospital’s depths to escape the encroaching evils outside, they discover Dr. Powell has been “playing God,” as well as defying death and nature, with nightmarish “experiments” that have opened a portal (The Void, If you will) into another dimension.
These sequences are the The Void’s absolute best parts: a mix of sci-fi mystical horror and Hellraiser-esque gore that keep us locked in step with the ever accelerating ways Gillespie and Kostanski showcase their film-making skills — which include prosthetic makeup and digital FX design, art direction, even the sound design and music. A dizzying, dark and disturbing film made on a minuscule budget, The Void shines as it’s own unique take on Body Horror, while also being clearly crafted by true Horror lovers. The deeply hued, hushed palate of Cinematographer Samy Inayeh’s widescreen framing recalls classic John Carpenter, the creature designs are inspired and Kenneth Walsh creates in Dr. Powell a truly memorable and malevolent villain that would make Lovecraft himself proud. We can happily overlook the clunky acting of some of the leads and the sometimes confusing timelines and instead lose ourselves in the metaphysical mayhem these indie filmmakers have delivered.