There is something thrilling about watching a filmmaker grow from film to film or project to project. To see something raw and over the top become something honed and still as energized over a number of years is something special. Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski have done just that over the past decade or so with some of the most bonkers, inspired pieces of gross out cinema such as Father’s Day, Manborg, BioCop and a slew of other features and shorts with their creative collective Astron 6.
But with The Void, Gillespie and Kostanski have ventured out on their own and have created their most cohesive, brutal, gory and insane effort to date.
The Void follows officer Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole) out patrolling on an otherwise uneventful night until a mysterious stranger (Evan Stern) stumbles out of the woods, bloody and disoriented. Carter takes the man to the local hospital which, after a terrible fire, is at the tail end of moving facilities and operating on a skeleton crew of nurse in training Kim (Scott Pilgrim’s Ellen Wong), the resident doctor Powell (Kenneth Welsh) and Carter’s ex-wife and head nurse Beverly (Stephanie Belding). Things go from bad to insane when a gun toting father and son (Daniel Fathers and Mike Byskov), a group of shrouded, dagger wielding cultists and a horde of Lovecraftian creepy crawlies beseech the emergency room.
The filmmakers launched a crowdfunding campaign in 2015 to help cover the costs of the incredibly ambitious practical effects of the film. They raised well over their desired goal and it is clear from the very first shot of one of the film’s gruesome denizens that every dollar made it onto the screen. As a practical effects junkie myself, I couldn’t believe how much the practical viscera and creatures really sang on screen. Everything looks like it could have easily been right at home in Carpenter’s The Thing or Gordon’s Re-Animator. Both Gillespie and Kostanski come from an effects background and it absolutely shows here. Not just form the craftsmanship in the designs and functions but also in screen time. They strike a beautiful balance between showing you just enough and leaving wonder what you really saw in the first place. It screams 80’s creature feature sensibilities in the best way.
Also like the films of that era, The Void is populated by a cast of believable archetypes for the madness to be unleashed upon. We have the cop seeking redemption, the doctor with a dark secret, the pregnant farm girl and her caretaker, all are wonderfully realized and played 100% serious amid a tidal wave of blood and guts. The particular standout here, however, is Kenneth Welsh’s Dr. Powell, who absolutely steals the third act of the film. He’s given some considerably lengthy dialog that, under the delivery of lesser actors, could have plodded along and felt monotonous. But Welsh, however, supercharges some heavy exposition with a decidedly sinister edge.
There is a ton of world building in The Void that leaves the audience with as many questions as it answers. We get really incredible glimpses of the purpose of the cult and what lies beyond the actual void but we are left piecing together some of the why. Some may say that that method is part of the fun of the world the film creates but I, myself, would have loved to learn a little more about everything’s purpose and origin.
The Void proves that Gillespie and Kostanski are forces to be reckon with. They have a mastery over genre and a solid hold over all of the character, mood and tone work that makes for a truly compelling film. If this is any indication of what we can expect to see of them in the future, sign us up.
The Void is now available on demand and in select theaters nationwide.